Tom Lubbock: The more we see of his lifelike world the better
Tuesday 09 March 2010
Circa 1300, Giotto was the next big thing. Dante mentions him in The Divine Comedy as the artist who now "has the cry". He was more than a trendsetter: he was an original of the most radical type. He began the whole tradition of European painting, transforming it from the flatness of the Greek-Byzantine icon to the rounded solidity of a Roman statue. Realism is the word.
There are various legends about Giotto's artistic powers, the best of which has the Pope asking for a demonstration of his skill. Giotto takes a paintbrush and draws a perfect circle freehand. The truth of such tales may be doubtful. What's not in doubt is Giotto's unprecedentedly life-like world, created in the fresco sequences in Florence, Padua, Assisi. This is the quality – bodies rendered tangibly in light and shade – that is now being revealed again on the walls of the Peruzzi Chapel in Santa Croce in Florence.
Giotto's fate hasn't always been happy. He was an inspiration to the Renaissance, but his founding realism eventually looked outdated. His tubby characters began to look quaint. One artist said that they looked as if they had been modelled on "the bendings of a sandbag".
His works fell into disrepair or worse. The scenes in Peruzzi Chapel are a faint memory of their originals. Only in the mid-19th century did Giotto begin to be admired again. Modern artists have delighted in him. "What ho! Giotto!" Stanley Spencer cried, when he got the commission to paint the Sandham Memorial Chapel. Giotto's reputation could now hardly be higher. Any more Giotto, even the slightest bit, would be welcome. So now we do have just a little bit more.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 3 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 4 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
Miley Cyrus concert banned on morality grounds in the Dominican Republic
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
American film board gives gay film Love Is Strange R-rating despite no sex or violence
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians