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History >> Renaissance for Kids

Many of the new ideas and attitudes that marked the Renaissance times were portrayed in art. A new idea called humanism put a focus on human interests, needs, and abilities. This new idea changed how artists painted their subjects as well as the choice of subjects they painted.

hands of Adam and God
Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo

Renaissance art is often divided up into two periods:

Early Renaissance (1400-1479) - Artists learned by trying to emulate classical artists focusing on symmetry and creating the perfect form. This era featured such artists as Giotto, Masaccio, and Donatello.

High Renaissance (1475-1525) - A rising interest in perspective and space gave the art even more realism. Great artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rafael flourished during this period.

Change of Subjects

In the Middle Ages the subject of almost all European art was religion, specifically Christianity and the Catholic Church. Although Renaissance artists continued to paint religious paintings, they also branched out to other subjects including Greek and Roman mythology, historical subjects, and portraits of individuals. They also focused on the details of everyday life.

School of Athens
School of Athens by Raphael
featured philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates


One of the big changes in art was to paint and sculpt subjects realistically. This is called realism and involves a number of techniques that make the subjects and background look like they would in real life. This also meant giving the subjects more emotional qualities.

New Techniques and Styles

Many new techniques were introduced during the Renaissance. These techniques helped to enhance the quality and realism of the art.

Perspective - perspective is drawing or painting a picture such that it looks like there are three dimensions. It gives the illusion that some objects in the painting are further away than others.

Balance and Proportion - Drawing subjects such that they are the correct size when compared to each other.

Use of Light and Dark - Many artists starting using light and shadows in their works to add drama, perspective, and timing to their art.

Caravaggio's use of  light and shadow
The Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio
Caravaggio used light and shadow to create drama

Sfumato - This was a technique used by Leonardo da Vinci to add additional perspective and dimension to paintings. It was a way of blurring the lines between subjects. This technique was used in Leonardo's Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci used the sfumato technique

Foreshortening - Another technique that added perspective and depth to paintings, foreshortening is a way of shortening lines to give the illusion of depth.


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    How did the Renaissance start?
    Medici Family
    Italian City-states
    Age of Exploration
    Elizabethan Era
    Ottoman Empire
    Northern Renaissance
    Daily Life
    Renaissance Art
    Clothing and Fashion
    Music and Dance
    Science and Inventions
    Famous Renaissance People
    Christopher Columbus
    Johannes Gutenberg
    Henry VIII
    Queen Elizabeth I
    William Shakespeare
    Leonardo da Vinci

    Works Cited

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