Sunday, March 13, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Giorgio Vasari

I've already quoted him and referred to his critique and praise of certain artists, so now I will feature him in my 40 Days. Giorgio Vasari did a few paintings and frescos, but perhaps his greatest contribution to art was his survey of the greatest Renaissance artists - The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. Or simply, Lives of the Artists. It was first published in 1550, and is still considered today to be the quintessential document of art historical criticism and scholarship.
Vasari's Lives gives some of the most finely laid out details of works by the masters of the Italian Renaissance - Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Giotto, Titian, Pontormo, Brunelleschi, and others. One of the striking, and almost bittersweet details of the Lives is detail that Vasari gives of works that have been lost or no longer exist. It leaves the reader longing to see what these works actually looked like. He also maps out bits of the historical Italy in his descriptions of the artists' lives and where they lived, grew up, and studied. The details are wonderfully recorded, so that art students and art appreciators of today can witness these works and places for themselves, and see with their own eyes what Vasari was talking about 460 years ago.
The main point of writing about different artists for 40 days of Lent is to give a glimpse of 40 of God's greatest creations - who were themselves creators. I believe God also used Vasari as a prophet of sorts for the world of fine arts. His Lives is basically a testament to art history - a written witness for the discipline of classical painting and sculpting, and one of the main reasons that we still appreciate this timeless manner of creating in the 21st century.

Giorgio Vasari
Self Portrait
oil on canvas
101x80 cm
c. 1550-67

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