Giotto di Bondone
Portrait of Giotto by Paolo Ucello
Giotto di Bondone was an Italian painter and architect and also the founder of the Proto-Renaissance. He was born in 1266 or 1267 in the town of Vespignano (now Vicchio), east of Florence. He died in Florence on January 8, 1337, while working on the fresco The Last Judgment in the Bargello Chapel. One of the key figures in the history of Western art. Overcoming the Byzantine icon painting tradition, he became a true founder of the Italian school of painting and developed a completely new approach to the depiction of space. Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo were under influence of his art.
Giotto brought a new level of realism to Medieval art, his works would establish the framework for Western art until 20th-century when Modernism changed the rules.
Giotto was the son of a farmer, but he was able to become an educated and cultivated man, who grew rich and important in Florentine society. An unsubstantiated story tells that his talent was discovered by chance by the great painter Cimabue who saw the boy Giotto sketching his father’s sheep. Giotto became Cimabue’s apprentice. He lived through a period when Florence was becoming one of Europe’s most important and influential cities.
Giotto’s innovation consisted in the way he portrayed real-life scenes to appear as though enacted by people expressing their emotions very authentically. In other words, his paintings are about life.
Just have a look at the faces expressing genuine emotions; meaningful gestures; self-explanatory storylines (like early silent movies, you only have to look to know exactly what is going on); the sense of space around and between the figures. See how the outlines of objects, such as trees or rocks, match the action and mood of the scene. But notice also where he finds problems that are difficult for him to resolve; for example, he had no knowledge of perspective or anatomy, and a convincing sense of weightlessness of the flying angel eluded him.
Giotto’s key monument is the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (c. 1304–1313). With a complex arrangement of self-contained scenes, in several tiers covering the walls and the vault of the chapel, the artist composes a narrative series, most memorable for their emotional and spiritual impact.
- Robert Cumming. Art: complete encyclopedia. – 512 p. – Moscow: Astrel, 2005