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The Renaissance was brought about by political and economic upheavals and represented a spiritual return to the traditions of Antiquity. Poets and authors glorified Classical authors and ancient Greek philosophers. The restraints of the Middle Ages were loosed, and the creative, adventurous spirit of artists could no longer be held back. Many events happened which changed the course of history. Petrarch ascended Mont Vidoux and began mountaineering; the size and true shape of the earth were discovered, and the individuality of humans was finally acknowledged. This resulted in a joy of living and an exploration of life that was reflected in the arts, science and beginnings of technology that changed life completely for those living in the time and for those who followed. Religion underwent serious changes, also. Reformationists tore up artworks, believing that they did not come from or represent God. Protestants became vindictive in their reform, destroying artworks of centuries past, especially in the Netherlands. Religious wars started, with the Catholics and Protestants both believing that they had the only understanding of God. All aspects of life were challenged by the great thinkers and artists of the Renaissance. Their contributions challenged every belief system and tradition established by their stricter predecessors.

In architecture, the Gothic traditions were discarded in favor of a revival of Classic traditions, but the Renaissance architects did not wish to copy the buildings of Greece and Rome, but rather to create new buildings that embodied the spirit of Antiquity. These architects tried to balance the components of their buildings. Proportions became more harmonious, using the square, rectangle and circle to present a more unified appearance. The architectural elements of Antiquity and Early Christian art such as piers, arches, pilasters, semicircular moldings and cornices were used to give the final touches. The "palazzos" were designed for the first time and consisted of a series of rooms grouped around courtyards. Various facades were also developed. Villas were country houses built outside the city walls and were based on the Roman models. In England, the Gothic architectural designs continued until the 16th and 17th centuries. However, the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge are the best examples of English Renaissance architecture, and combine both Gothic and Italian forms with water, trees and lawns in the conscious and joyful spirit of the Renaissance.

In sculpture, the artists combined realism with secular and biblical subjects. Nude statues were made with a fresh interpretation: Donatello's David being an excellent example. Luca della Robbia, the Florentine sculptor, revived the old technique of colored glazes. Michelangelo replaced the realism used by Donatello with an idealistic view of the human form. He used rules of proportion he had discovered in the studying of the statues of Antiquity. The paintings of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and others achieved a balance between reality and imagination, although Michelangelo was not as interested in uniting man and nature. He was more concerned with portraying the struggles and passions of humans. The German painter, Albrecht Durer, was familiar with the principles of the Italian Renaissance and tried to incorporate them into his work. The Renaissance painters used color to blend every imaginable hue. Titian applied the paints in layer after layer, creating an effect where the paint colors almost merged into one another. Large altar pictures and frescoes were the favorite expressions. In the graphic arts, woodcuts reached perfection, the copper engraving came into prominence, and the etching had a place of importance by the middle of the 16th century. In crafts ceramic arts achieved magnificence, with Italian craftsmen achieving a name for themselves all over Europe. Elaborate vessels were fashioned by German craftsmen, and tapestry weaving reached the height of excellence. The Renaissance man wanted works of beauty in his everyday life. Artist masters such as Durer designed furniture, plates, coins, jewelry and clothes as part of their art. The Renaissance is symbol of the blooming of culture in all areas of life.

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