The Birth and Naming of John the Baptist, c. 1500. Juan de Flandes. Oil on wood; 34-3/4 x 19-5/8 in. John L. Severence Fund 1975.3

Renaissance Painting: An Overview

Grade Level: 
Student Level: 
High School

Selected paintings from the museum's collection help acquaint students with the Renaissance, the transitional period of European history in which learning and the arts blossomed and medieval thought was gradually subjected to the beginnings of scientific scrutiny. Portraiture, early landscape elements, and contemporary details in these works show the artists' growing attention to the world around them. Specialized vocabulary words (for example, perspective, patron, altarpiece, tondo) introduce basic concepts related to Renaissance painting.

This lesson includes teaching extensions on one-point perspective in which students give flat shapes the appearance of three-dimensional objects by drawing converging lines to a vanishing point. These same principles are used in a follow-up project for drawing a room in 3-D. A videoconference viewing guide on perspective adds an engaging interactivity to this distance learning lesson.

Program Format: 
  • Briefly discuss the significance and key points of the Renaissance.
  • Compare earlier Medieval work with those of the Renaissance to highlight later innovations.
  • Examine differences between artists working in Italy vs. other areas in Europe to demonstrate that Italy was considered an artistic center of the Renaissance.
  • Introduce the Northern Renaissance (including Jan van Eyck) and discuss the different techniques and materials used, such as oil paint.
  • Perspective interactivity using viewing guide provided in the teacher information packet.
  • Introduce works from the High Renaissance by artists including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, and others, time permitting.
  • Students will learn that scientific observation affected the appearance of Renaissance art.
  • Students will improve their understanding of the concept of one-point perspective.
  • Students will understand that a growing perception of people as individuals promoted portraiture.
  • Students will learn that the Renaissance reflected a renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman learning.