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A History Of European Art 13 - Masaccio and Early Renaissance Painting

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A History Of European Art
Lecture Thirteen

Masaccio and Early Renaissance Painting

In 1426 two artists commenced painting a fresco cycle of the Life of St. Peter in the chapel of the Brancacci family, at the Carmelite Church in Florence. They both were called by the name of Tommaso and were nicknamed Masaccio and Masolino, Big Tom and Little Tom.

More than any other artist, Masaccio recognised the implications in the work of Giotto. He carried forward the practice of painting from nature. His paintings demonstrate an understanding of anatomy, of foreshortening, of linear perspective, of light and the study of drapery. Among his works, the figures of Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden, painted on the side of the arch into the chapel, are renowned for their realistic depiction of the human form and of human emotion. They contrast with the gentle and pretty figures painted by Masolino on the opposite side of Adam and Eve receiving the forbidden fruit. The painting of the Brancacci Chapel was left incomplete when Masaccio died at 26. The work was later finished by Filippino Lippi. Masaccio's work was to be a source of inspiration to many later painters, including both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Detail of a fresco showing Adam and Eve leaving the garden of Eden. Adam's weeps into his hands and Eve throws her head back to wail, while trying to cover her naked body. The style is broadly painted with realistic gestures and emotion.

Adam and Eve by Masaccio.

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