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In recent weeks I have stopped kind of just posting links, but I have discovered some really interesting commentary lately. This comes from a recent addition to my Google Reader, The Guardian’s Art & architecture blog, a post written by Simon Goddard about Masaccio, the greatest and youngest “old master” I never knew about!
If the world of art was stricken by the same incurable, anniversary-fixated old rope disease as the UK music press then, round about now, there’d be brainstorming editorial meetings on how best to commemorate the imminent 580th anniversary of the untimely death of Masaccio – Renaissance Italy’s hippest young gunslinger who more or less invented painting as we know it. […]
For while enough major works have survived to earn him a rightful place in the pantheon of Renaissance masters, his biography is the palest of sketches. We know, or rather we think we know, that he was born near Florence on December 21, 1401 and that he died, aged 26, in Rome some time in the latter half of 1428 (we don’t even have an exact date). And that’s it. […]
In rock’n’roll terms, his bequest to art was the equivalent of Elvis Presley’s Sun recordings, a year zero foundation stone for future generations to develop and perfect. Masaccio was the first to fully master depth and perspective on a two-dimensional surface. Before his arrival, paintings were flat, ornamental images beholden to staid Gothic tradition. After him, they became windows on walls, peering into another universe of similar spatial dimensions to our own. Significantly, his frescoes were a vital influence on Michelangelo. The latter’s close friend, the great Florentine biographer Vasari, was still swooning over Masaccio’s legacy 140 years after his inexplicable death. “Everything done before him can be described as artificial,” frothed Vasari, “whereas he produced work that is living, realistic and natural.”
Wow, I encourage others who may be ignorant of this artist to learn of him by reading more from the blog post. The author of the post reserves special praise for the work Masaccio is apparently best known for, the Holy Trinity fresco, pictured right.