Renaissance

 

Robert Genn

 
July 18, 2008
 
Dear Rodney,

Renaissance means "rebirth." It's a term that refers to the intellectual and artistic movement that began in Italy in the 14th century, culminated with Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael in the 16th, and has influenced thinking and creating ever since. The art historian Ian Chilvers has characterized it as "the time when Medieval turns into Modern and the religion-dominated world of the Middle Ages gives way to a culture more responsive to the individual." It has come to mean openness to change, to rethinking, and to the examination and often reinvention of more classical forms. These days, it seems we are living through a renaissance of realism in a world traditionally dominated by abstract expressionism. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, for example.

More than anything, renaissance is an attitude that transcends times and places. For creative people, a minor renaissance happens every day as we reassess yesterday's work and adjust our thinking to both its needs and our personal inclinations.

Would-be "renaissance artists" try to range widely in their interests, understanding, and capability. They do many things, know how to quickly research the information they need, do not necessarily follow the recipes of others, and are rather in love with the business of finding out for themselves. They both respect the past and contrive to discover the future. And just like Giotto, Pisano and Donatello, as well as the three guys mentioned above, "renaissance thinking" is learned.

The way I look at it, the idea of renaissance has eight great principles that just might be worth thinking about:

Curiosity as a way of thinking
Suspicion of authority and conventional wisdom
Respect for intelligently filtered history
Aspiration to higher levels of achievement
Vision for renewed potential in all things
Tendency to invent private systems
Reinvention and perfection of former skills
Accepting the challenge of the difficult

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Francis Bacon would say that he felt he was giving art what he thought it previously lacked. With me, it's what Yeats called the fascination with what's difficult. I'm only trying to do what I can't do." (Lucian Freud)