Michelangelo: 1475-1564

Born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was a Renaissance sculptor, painter, draftsman, architect, and poet. Michelangelo was thought of as the greatest living artist in his lifetime, and is considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time.

In 1488, at the age of 13, Michelangelo apprenticed with Domenico Ghirlandaio, Florence’s best fresco painter. Following that, he studied with sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni in the Medici gardens in Florence. During this time, he was surrounded by prominent people including Lorenzo de’ Medici (known as “Lorenzo the Magnificent”), who introduced him to poets, artists, and scholars in his inner circle.

Early on, Michelangelo strove for artistic perfection in his depictions of the human body. He studied anatomy with great interest and at one point even gained permission from the prior of the church of Santo Spirito to study cadavers in the church’s hospital. It was at this time that Michelangelo began a life-long practice of preparatory drawing and sketching for his works of art and architecture.

After Medici’s death in 1492, Michelangelo left Florence, traveled to Bologna and eventually to Rome, where he continued to sculpt and study classical works. In 1498-99, the French Ambassador in the Holy See commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt the “Pietà” for Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

In 1501, Michelangelo returned to Florence where he began work on his famous marble statue “David”. This work established Michelangelo’s prominence as a sculptor of incredible technical skill and innovation.

In 1503, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to create his papal tomb which features the famous statue of Moses. The artist worked on the tomb for 40 years, stopping often to work on other commissions including the painting of more than 300 figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel from 1508-12.

From 1534 to 1541, Michelangelo produced an enormous fresco “The Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel. “A depiction of the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse, the work was controversial even before its unveiling because of the depictions of nude saints in the papal chapel, which were considered obscene and sacrilegious.”

From about 1516, Michelangelo began to focus his attention more on architecture. In 1534, he designed plans for the Medici Tombs and the Laurentian Library attached to the church of San Lorenzo. In 1536, he designed the Piazza del Campidoglio, and in 1546 he was appointed architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica and designed its dome. From 1561-65, Michelangelo’s final plans were for the Porta Pia, a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome.

More than any other artist, “Michelangelo elevated the status of the artist above the level of craftsman. His deeply felt religious convictions were manifested in his art. For him, the body was the soul’s prison. By using movement, monumental forms, and gesture to express spiritual urges, he opened up new artistic vistas in the direction of Mannerism and the Baroque.”

Michelangelo was known to be a complicated man. “Arrogant with others and constantly dissatisfied with himself, he nonetheless authored tender poetry. In spite of his legendary impatience and indifference to food and drink, he committed himself to tasks that required years of sustained attention, creating some of the most beautiful human figures ever imagined.”

“He constantly cried poverty, even declaring to his apprentice Ascanio Condivi: ‘However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man’, yet he amassed a considerable fortune that kept his family comfortable for centuries. And though he enjoyed the reputation of being a solitary genius and continually withdrew himself from the company of others, he also directed dozens of assistants, quarrymen, and stonemasons to carry out his work.”

Michelangelo’s final work in marble, the “Rondanini Pietà,” was left unfinished. He died in Rome on February 18, 1564 at the age of 88.

Related Books:
Michelangelo: The Complete Sculpture,
Painting, Architecture
Michelangelo: The Artist, the Man and his Times
Complete Poems and Selected Letters of Michelangelo

Sources: The Getty Museum, Wikipedia, Michelangelo.syr.edu

Friedensreich Hundertwasser: 1928-2000

Friendensreich-Hundertwasser 30-Tage Fax-BildBorn Friedrich Stowasser on December 15, 1928 in Vienna, Austria, Friedensreich Hundertwasser was one of the best known Austrian painters and architects of the 20th century.

Hundertwasser studied briefly at the Montessori school in Vienna and in 1948 he studied 19th century watercolour landscapes at the Fine Art Academy. He was influenced by the art of the Vienna Seccesion, the Austrian figurative painter Egon Schiele, and Gustav Klimt.

In 1949 Hundertwasser traveled to Italy and met the French artist René Brô, with whom he later painted murals in Paris. During this time his work became more abstract but still contained symbolic figurative elements. Hundertwasser had his first solo exhibition in 1952 at the Art Club in Vienna.

In 1953 Hundertwasser’s spiral motif began to appear in his work and was a reference to the creation of life.  This motif became a constant element in his paintings, which included a combination of contrasting colors and vibrant pigments. Hundertwasser developed his “transautomatism” theory in 1953 which focused on the innate creativity of the viewer.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s that Hundertwasser began focusing on architecture.  This began with manifestos, essays and demonstrations. In his view, the welfare of human beings depended on the style of architecture in which their houses were built.  He believed that “architecture would be the people’s third skin and that everybody must be enabled to design this skin as he likes, just as he may design his first (his natural skin) and his second skin (his clothes).”

In 1958, Hundertwasser released his treatise against rationalism in architecture titled “Verschimmelungmanifest”. In the 1960s he traveled to Europe and Asia and began producing architectural models for ecological structures. He also started refurbishing and decorating public and private buildings. He successfully took part in the Tokyo International Art Exhibition in 1960, and the following year he showed at the Venice Biennale.

Hundertwasser became interested in graphics during the 1970s and designed the poster for the 1971 Monaco Olympics.  Hundertwasser also created flags, stamps, coins, and posters. His most famous flag is the Koru Flag. Along with designing postage stamps for the Austrian Post Office, he also created stamps for the Cape Verde islands, and for the United Nations postal administration in Geneva for the 35th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 1973 he published a portfolio of woodcuts by various Japanese artists who had used his paintings as inspiration. In 1972 he published a manifesto on “the right to a window space” and in 1978 the Manifesto of Peace. Both reflected the artist’s ideology about searching for harmony between man and nature.

In 1998 the Institue Mathildenhöhe of Darmstadt held a retrospective of Hundertwasser’s work. The following year he moved to New Zealand and continued to work on architectural projects. In 1999 Hundertwasser started his last project named Die Grüne Zitadelle von Magdeburg. He never finished this project although the building was constructed a few years later in Magdeburg, Germany, and opened on October 3, 2005.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser died of a heart attack while on board the Queen Elizabeth II on February 19, 2000. For more complete biographical information, see the source links below.

Related Books From Amazon
Sources: The Green Citadel of Madgeburg, Wikipedia, Hundertwasser.com, Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Antoni Gaudi: 1852-1926

Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet was born on June 25, 1852, in Reus, Spain to coppersmith parents. He studied at the Escola Superior d’Arquitectura in Barcelona and designed his first major commission for the Gothic styled Casa Vincens in Barcelona.

Most of Gaudi’s work was in architecture though he also designed furniture and objects, and worked in town planning and landscaping. Throughout his life, Gaudi studied the angles and curves of nature and incorporated them into his designs. Gaudi’s style was beautifully expressive and his signature warped form of Gothic design, established him as a leader in the Spanish Art Nouveau movement and drew admiration from avant-garde artists.

Gaudi’s major works include La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Casa Vicens, Park Guell, Palau Guell, and Casa Mila – aka ‘La Pedrera’.  Gaudí spent most of his professional career building the Church of La Sagrada Família. He received the commission in late 1883 and it occupied his whole life. The massive Cathedral is still under construction with an estimated completion date of 2026.

On June 7, 1926, Gaudi was hit by a tram and died of his injuries three days later. His body was buried in the crypt of the edifice where he had worked for the last 43 years of his life, La Sagrada Familia.

For a detailed biography and to view more of Gaudi’s work, visit GaudiClub.com or click on the source links below.

Sources: Sagrada Familia, Gaudi Club, Wikipedia
Image Sources: Studio Tsunami, Great Buildings, FStifter, Marudadu.com, Webshots

Raphael: 1483-1520

Born in Urbino, Italy on April 6 (or March 28) 1483, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino aka Raphael was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. Though his career was short,  Raphael produced works of “extraordinary refinement” that would have a great influence on European painting. Along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael was a member of the trinity of the great masters of the Renaissance.

Raphael first trained with his father Giovanni Santi, who was a court painter. After his father’s death in 1494, he traveled extensively and worked with several masters including the dominant Umbrian painter Pietro Perugino. From about 1500, Raphael became an independent master  and worked throughout central Italy where he became known as a portraitist and painter of Madonnas.

In 1508, Raphael moved to Rome to work on Pope Julius II’s papal apartments. “Raphael’s frescoes there and the  Stanza d’Eliodoro and dell’Incendio, along with Michelangelo’s work in the nearby Sistine Chapel, represent the finest examples of High Renaissance art. “

Raphael’s commissions increased in Rome and he was dependent on teams of assistants to assist in the completion of his projects. He was a superior draftsmen and used drawings extensively  to refine his poses and compositions, apparently to a greater extent than most other painters.

After the achitect Donato Bramante’s death in 1514, Raphael was named architect of  St Peter’s Basilica. Most of his work there was altered or demolished after his death and the acceptance of Michelangelo’s design, but a few drawings have survived. Raphael designed several other buildings, and for a short time was the most important architect in Rome, working for a small circle around the Papacy.

The Vatican projects took most of Raphael’s  time. “Among Raphael’s most famous works are the frescos that are painted on the walls of Julius II’s own rooms in the Vatican Palace, known as the Stanze. The paintings in the Stanza della Segnatura and the Stanza d’Eliodoro were created by Raphael himself, whilst the Stanza dell’Incendio was designed by Raphael and painted by his assistants.”

Another important papal commission was the “Raphael Cartoons”, a series of 10 cartoons, of which seven survive, for tapestries with scenes of the lives of Saint Paul and Saint Peter, for the Sistine Chapel. The cartoons were sent to Brussels to be woven in the workshop of Pier van Aelst. It is possible that Raphael saw the finished series before his death which were most likely completed in 1520.

At the age of 37, Raphael died on his birthday, April 6, 1520, after a short illness. He was buried in the Pantheon.   His two main assistants, Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni, inherited his studio and completed the outstanding contracts.

“Raphael was highly admired by his contemporaries, although his influence on artistic style in his own century was less than that of Michelangelo. Mannerism, beginning at the time of his death, and later the Baroque, took art “in a direction totally opposed” to Raphael’s qualities with Raphael’s death, classic art – the High Renaissance – subsided.”

Sources: J. Paul Getty Museum, National Gallery London, Athenaeum (images), Wikipedia

DAF Group Feature: Vol. 15

Enjoy your Monday Mixx!