Viewed as a much-needed revival of art and culture, the Renaissance played a pivotal role in ushering Europe out of its Dark Ages and into a world of enlightenment. Beginning in the 14th century and coming to an end in the 17th, this “golden age” swept the continent, culminating in two distinctive yet unified art movements: the Northern Renaissance and the Italian Renaissance.
Based north of the Alps—namely, in Flanders and the Netherlands—the Northern Renaissance was the first of its kind. This movement began in the 14th century following a renewed interest in secular subject matter. Soon, Renaissance ideas spread throughout Europe. This led to the Italian Renaissance, which began in 1400 and reawakened Italy’s interest in Classical antiquity.
While numerous figures shaped both the Italian and the Northern Renaissance, today, a select few are particularly praised for their contributions to Europe’s “golden age.” Here, we present these artists and take a look their most well-known masterpieces.
Northern Renaissance Artists
PIETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER
Today, painter and printmaker Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569) is regarded as the master of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance art. With a penchant for painting scenes of lower-class life—evident in Netherlandish Proverbs—on top of more common religious iconography (like the tower of Babel) he is esteemed for his unique approach to subject matter. Additionally, his crowded canvases are distinctive for their detail and, with their beautiful backdrops (like the icy peaks in The Hunters in the Snow), their influence on modern landscape painting.