Thursday, June 18, 2015

The New Art of the Fifteenth Century

This book, published by Abbeville Press and written by Shirley Neilsen Blum, is a fresh look at the early Renaissance, considering Florentine and Netherlandish art as a single phenomenon at once deeply spiritual and entirely new

In fifteenth-century Florence and Flanders, painters were using an arsenal of new techniques—including perspective, anatomy, and the accurate treatment of light and shade—to present traditional religious subjects with an unprecedented immediacy and emotional power. Their art was the product of a shared Christian culture, and their patrons included not only nobles and churchmen but also the middle classes of these thriving commercial centers.

Shirley Neilsen Blum offers a new synthesis of this remarkable period in Western art—between the refinements of the Gothic and the classicism of the High Renaissance—when the mystical was made to seem real. In the first part of her text, Blum traces the emergence of a new naturalism in the sculpture of Claus Sluter and Donatello, and then in the painting of Van Eyck and Masaccio.

In the second part, she compares scenes from the Infancy and Passion of Christ as rendered by artists from North and South. Exploring both the images themselves and the theological concepts that lie behind them, she re-creates, as far as possible, the experience of the contemporary fifteenth-century viewer.Abundantly illustrated with color plates of masterworks by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Rogier van der Weyden, and others, this thought-provoking volume will appeal equally to general readers and students of art history.

Shirley Neilsen Blum, a historian of Renaissance and modern art, is professor emeritus at the State University of New York; she has also taught at the University of Chicago and the University of California at Riverside. Blum's scholarship and teaching have been recognized with a Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, and the Charles A. Dana Chair at Colgate University, among other honors. Her publications include Early Netherlandish Triptychs: A Study in Patronage and, most recently, Henri Matisse: Rooms with a View.