These innovators included Masaccio in painting, Brunelleschi in architecture, and Donatello in sculpture.
Trompe l'oeil (French for 'TRICK OF THE EYE')- is an art technique involving extremely realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects appear in three dimensions, instead of actually being a two-dimensional painting.
The late-16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari says of him: "[H]e made a decisive break with the crude traditional Byzantine style, and brought to life the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years."
He is known as Giottino for having studied the works of the master painter, Giotto di Bondone. His father was also a painter, known for his naturalist style of painting, called Scimia della Natura, which means Ape of Nature. All of Giottino’s known works were produced in Florence, unless he is in fact the Giotto di Maestro from Rome as well.
In 1901 Fry wrote memorably about the picture. He described it as an ‘epic conception . . . for the impression conveyed is of a universal and cosmic disaster: the air is rent with the shrieks of desperate angels whose bodies are contorted in a raging frenzy of compassion.’
For Fry at this date, the formal qualities of the picture are intimately bound up with its dramatic and emotional expressiveness: ‘the effect is due in part to the increased command, which the Paduan frescoes show, of simplicity and logical directness of design’.
The simplicity of the formal design, in this interpretation, elevates the religious message above the merely histrionic portrayal of grief to acquire a dignity that Fry associates with the art of classical antiquity. But he does not at this stage attempt to divorce this dignity of style from the emotional and religious expressiveness of the scene.
However by 1920 Fry would no longer stress the ‘dramatic idea’, the ‘universal and cosmic disaster’ of Christ’s crucifixion. Nor would he take into account any ‘associated ideas’ such as, perhaps, the way the scene may remind us of our own experiences of grief or mourning. Now he believes that the viewer can respond to the forms alone, and moreover that these have ‘value’ independently of the dramatic idea or of any associated ideas.
Fry had been pessimistic about the art of his own day; he believed that Impressionism, the most recent artistic movement with which he was then familiar, lacked the excellence in design that he found in artists of the early Italian Renaissance. Then, in 1906, Fry happened on two paintings by Paul Cézanne, which seemed to offer a new alternative:
‘To my intense surprise I found myself deeply moved’.
The paintings were a still life and a landscape. Thus they lacked important subject matter of the kind found in Giotto’s works, and initially Fry was at something of a loss to account for the intensity of his own reaction; he described the pictures’ appeal as ‘limited’ when he first wrote about them in 1906.
Nonetheless this initial review shows that the formal organization of the two works had impressed him strongly, even though he could not yet reconcile this with his beliefs about art (as he recalled in 1920, ‘I was still obsessed by ideas about the content of a work of art’).
The experience proved as decisive for Fry as Ruskin’s ‘unconversion’ before Veronese’s Solomon and the Queen of Sheba had been.
There are a number of advantages to this ‘formalist’ approach.
It would make it possible for a non-western viewer who had no knowledge
of Christianity to find value in the picture. By extension it could permit viewers who object to the religious messages of Christian subject-matter to contemplate the painting.
The formal account might also encourage a special freshness of response to the work, since the viewer would not bring her preconceptions about the Christian story, or even about emotions of grief and mourning, to bear on the experience.
But Fry goes further: by 1920 he is convinced not only that an attention to ‘pure form’ is good on its own terms, but also that it is superior to a response that takes into account dramatic narrative, engagement of the emotions we feel in life (such as pity or grief ), and, above all, ‘associated ideas’. We may account for this in formal terms, by noting how the convergence of linear elements and plastic volumes in this area produces a particularly arresting visual effect, or in dramatic terms, by observing that this is where the mourners cluster around the body of Christ.
Within a few years he no longer thought Cézanne’s art ‘limited’ simply because it lacked important subject-matter; instead he elevated the importance of ‘pure form’, the quality he did find in the Cézannes, to prime position in his emerging aesthetic.
By ‘form’, Fry did not mean merely visual attractiveness. The paintings of the Impressionists were attractive enough. Moreover, the Impressionists were adept, as Fry always acknowledged, at capturing lovely visual aspects of the natural world, particularly effects of light and atmosphere. The qualities of ‘pure form’ that Fry found in Cézanne and the Post-Impressionists were different. Fry believed that they no longer depended on imitating the loveliness of appearances in the world outside the picture; rather, they were created in the picture itself.