Paolo Uccello (1397-1475)

Paolo Uccello, was a Florentine painter whose work attempted uniquely to reconcile two distinct artistic styles: the essentially decorative late Gothic and the new heroic style of the early Renaissance.

Paolo Uccello, The battle of Saint Roman, 1440

Image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Uccello was probably born in Florence in 1397. His tax declarations for some years indicate that he was born in 1397, but in 1446 he claimed to be born in 1396. His nickname Uccello came from his fondness for painting birds.


Early life and education

Paolo Uccello, self potrait, XVI century

By the time Paolo was 10 years old he was already an apprentice in the workshop of the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, who was then at work on what became one of the masterpieces of Renaissance art. In 1414 Uccello joined the confraternity of painters (Compagnia di San Luca), and in the following year he became a member of the Arte dei Medici e degli Speziali, the official guild in Florence to which painters belonged. Though Uccello must by then have been established as an independent painter, nothing of his work from this time remains, and there is no definite indication of his early training as a painter, except that he was a member of the workshop of Ghiberti, where many of the outstanding artists of the time were trained.

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

How he became famous

Paolo Uccello, Frescoes with stories of the Genesis, 1440

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anita_pravits/27144187017

By 1424 Paolo was earning his own living as a painter. In that year he painted episodes of the Creation and expulsion for the Green Cloister (Chiostro Verde) of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (now badly damaged), proving his artistic maturity. Again, he was able to paint in a lively manner a large number of animals. As he succeeded in painting trees in their natural colours, in contrast with many of his predecessors, he began to acquire a reputation for painting landscapes. He continued with scenes from the Deluge, the story of Noah’s Ark, Noah’s sacrifice and Noah’s drunkenness. These scenes brought him great fame in Florence.

The years in Florence

Paolo Uccello, Funerary Monument to Sir John Hawkwood, 1432

In 1432 the Office of Works asked the Florentine ambassador in Venice to enquire after Uccello’s reputation as an artist. Uccello remained in Florence for most of the rest of his life, executing works for various churches and patrons, most notably the Duomo. In 1436 he was given the commission for the monochromatic fresco of Sir John Hawkwood. In this equestrian monument he showed his keen interest in perspective. The condottiere and his horse are presented as if the fresco was a sculpture, seen from below.

Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/

Studies on perspective

Paolo Uccello, Saint George and the Dragon, 1470

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

With his precise and analytical mind, Paolo Uccello tried to apply a scientific method to depict objects in three-dimensional space. In particular, some of his studies of the perspective foreshortening of the torus are preserved, and one standard display of drawing skill was his depiction of the mazzocchio. In the words of G. C. Argan: “Paolo’s rigour is similar to the rigour of Cubists in the early 20th century, whose images were more true when they were less true to life. Paolo constructs space through perspective, and historic event through the structure of space; if the resulting image is unnatural and unrealistic, so much the worse for nature and history.” The perspective in his paintings has influenced many famous painters, such as Piero della Francesca, Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few.


Info source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Paolo-Uccello                   https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paolo_Uccello                                                                  http://www.paolouccello.org/biography.html                                                              https://www.virtualuffizi.com/paolo-uccello.html

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