The School of Athens

Raphael’s The School of Athens is a remarkable painting that really epitomizes the idea of Renaissance art. The use of linear and atmospheric perspective makes the wall on which it’s painted seem almost non-existent. It’s as if the artist opened up a portal to the Classical world, to the very places famous ancient philosophers walked and talked. The subject matter alone argues its place in Renaissance art. If you are very interested in something, what do you do? Personally, I become absorbed in that thing. Raphael not only painted architecture from the time period in which he had interest, he included the great thinkers and philosophers of the time. Many were pondering on the ideas of man’s goodness, and one of Raphael’s central figures in the painting is Aristotle who’s theory on happiness we studied earlier in the course posits that man is happy when he does the thing that will bring the greatest good. Raphael’s use of perspective is quite a mathematical one. All figures are in the correct proportions for their respective positions in the painting, meaning those in the foreground are larger than those in the background. But not only amongst the human characters does he do this, for all of them are in correct proportion to the high arches and steps and statues within the painting. We talked in class about Baroque art showing more candid scenes while the Renaissance used more posed and symbolic representations, however, I feel that Raphael balanced these two ideas quite well in The School of Athens it is evident that thought was put into the placement of his figures with Aristotle and Plato at the center where the vanishing point draws your eyes, however the other figures in the painting seem more naturally placed as if you truly are viewing what it might have been like had you stumbled upon this place in ancient times. Some are in their groups discussing and philosophizing while others are writing or just sitting on the stone steps. Others still are even walking away from the viewer for they certainly have better and more important things pressing on their mind than to sit and be ogled all day. On another note, Raphael’s use of light and darks suggest realism, with shadows in all the right places. Most of his figures are fully clothed hiding the body sufficiently, but those who are not, are expressed as idealistic which fits the art form for the time period as well. It seems that all elements used in the painting follow the style and views of the Renaissance period.

Posted in Art

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