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Bernhard Berenson

Fra Angelico we know already as the painter who devoted his life to picturing the departing mediæval vision of a heaven upon earth. Nothing could have been farther from the purpose of Uccello and Castagno. Different as these two were from each other, they have this much in common, that in their works which remain to us, dating, it is true, from their years of maturity, there is no touch of mediæval sentiment, no note of transition.

About 1400-1461. Probably acquired his rudiments at Venice; formed under the influence of Donatello, Masaccio, and Fra Angelico.

In all that concerns movement, Verrocchio was a learner from Pollaiuolo, rather than an initiator, and he probably never attained his master’s proficiency. We have unfortunately but few terms for comparison, as the only paintings which can be with certainty ascribed to Verrocchio are not pictures of action. A drawing however like that of his angel, in the British Museum, which attempts as much movement as the Hercules by Pollaiuolo, in the same collection, is of obviously inferior quality.

Pontormo, who had it in him to be a decorator and portrait-painter of the highest rank, was led astray by his awe-struck admiration for Michelangelo, and ended as an academic constructor of monstrous nudes.

1475-1517. Pupil of Pier di Cosimo; influenced by Leonardo and Michelangelo.

1276-1336. Follower of Pietro Cavallini; influenced by Giovanni Pisano.

The immense superiority of the artist even to his greatest achievement in any one art form, means that his personality was but slightly determined by the particular art in question, that he tended to mould it rather than let it shape him. It would be absurd, therefore, to treat the Florentine painter as a mere link between two points in a necessary evolution. The history of the art of Florence never can be, as that of Venice, the study of a placid development.

  • Berlin.
    • Small Marble Apollo.
  • Bologna.
    • S. Domenico. S. Petronio; An Angel (for Ark of St. Dominic). 1494.
  • Bruges.
    • Notre Dame. Madonna.

The essential in painting, especially in figure-painting, is, we agreed, the rendering of the tactile values of the forms represented, because by this means, and this alone, can the art make us realise forms better than we do in life. The great painter, then, is, above all, an artist with a great sense of tactile values and great skill in rendering them. Now this sense, though it will increase as the man is revealed to himself, is something which the great painter possesses at the start, so that he is scarcely, if at all, aware of possessing it.

1435-1488. Pupil of Donatello and Alesso Baldovinetti, influenced by Pesellino.

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