Saturday, February 17, 2018

17C Portraits - Families Head Outside as Man Becomes "the Interpreter of Nature"

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Renaissance artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.   As time passed, the Renaissance garden & grounds became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house, his clothes, or his art collection.

With the arrival of Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641) at the court of Charles I in 1632, British portraiture took a turn toward the baroque that changed the course of British & colonial American painting in the 17-18C.  The Elizabethan style had almost been completely replaced in England by the 1670s quickly giving way to a more volumetric style. In the British American colonies, this transition was copied through imported engravings after Peter Lely (1617–1680) & Godfrey Kneller (1648–1723).
 1650-60s Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) Sir John Cotton And Family in Their Garden