Thursday, February 22, 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. In English portraiture, the Elizabethan style of Nicholas Hilliard (1547–1619) & such contemporaries as Robert Peake the Elder (fl 1576–1626) remained current in England well into the 17C. This style, which portrayed children as miniature adults, was common in much of Europe. 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) Portrait Of Charles Dormer, His Wife Elizabeth And Their Children