Masaccio was the first person to master perspective and depth on a two-dimensional surface fully. Before his arrival, paintings were flat, ornamental images beholden to the staid Gothic tradition.
Tommaso Masaccio, a Florentine painter famous for works like Madonna and Child with St. Anne (1425), is widely regarded as the first genuine Renaissance master. The Italian painter's tragically early death abruptly ended his career, but Mosaccio's works altered the course of Western art. But even though we know very little about Massacio's life, we do know that his works, like the Holy Trinity (1428), were superior to those of any other well-known painters in the Florentine culture at the time. (2022)
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In the Tuscan province of Arezzo, about 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Florence, Tommaso di Giovanni di Simone Guidi was born. His mother, Monna Iacopa, was the offspring of an innkeeper, and his father, Ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai, was a notary. Giovanni Masaccio, Masaccio's brother, was also an artist. He was known as Lo Scheggia ("the Splinter") and is known for a few amateurish paintings.
Giorgio Vasari, a biographer who isn't always trustworthy, claims that Tommaso earned the moniker Masaccio—loosely translated as "Big Tom" or "Clumsy Tom"—because of his carelessness concerning his appearance and other heedless but amusing behavior. Art was frequently a family business passed down from father to son during the Renaissance. Therefore, it is puzzling that Masaccio and his brother became painters even though none of their direct ancestors were. The great-grandfather of Masaccio made chests (cassoni) that were frequently painted. He may have become an artist because of his grandfather's connections to the field.
The subject of Masaccio's training as an artist is one of the most intriguing mysteries. Boys as young as thirteen or fourteen would often serve as apprentices to a master. In his workshop, they would spend years mastering all the techniques required to produce various art forms. Masaccio undoubtedly underwent such training, but there is no record of his studies' location, timing, or professors.
Because imitation was the preferred method of learning art during the Renaissance and individuality was discouraged in the workshop, this is a crucial, unsolvable issue for understanding the painter. The apprentice imitated the master's style until it became his own. It would be possible to learn a lot about Masaccio's artistic development and early works if we knew who his teacher was.
Nothing is known about Masaccio between January 7, 1422, and the date of his birth in 1401. On the latter date, he joined the guild of Florentine painters, the Arte dei Medici e Speziali. We believe that he was a fully-fledged painter by the time he graduated and was prepared to manage his workshop. Like so many other things about him, it is still a mystery as to where he had been between the time of his birth and his 21st year.
A small triptych by Masaccio that dates to April 23, 1422, or about three months after he enrolled into the Florentine guild, is his earliest piece still in existence. This triptych, which features the enthroned Madonna, two adoring angels, and saints, was created for the San Giovenale Church in Cascia, a town close to San Giovanni Valdarno. Although it shows a thorough understanding of Florentine painting, the eclectic style, which Giotto and Andrea Orcagna heavily influenced, makes it impossible to tell whether Masaccio received his training in San Giovanni Valdarno or Florence before 1422.
Even so, the triptych is an awe-inspiring display of the young but already highly accomplished artist's talent. Masaccio's forms are startlingly direct and massive compared to the lyrical, graceful works of Lorenzo Monaco and Gentile da Fabriano. The triptych's compact, understated design and the straightforward, enthusiastic portrayal of the Madonna and child at its center bear no resemblance to the modern Florentine painting. However, the figures demonstrate a thorough understanding of Donatello's revolutionary art, the Florentine Renaissance sculptural style pioneer, whose early works Masaccio carefully studied. From Donatello's realistic sculptures, Masaccio learned how to depict and articulate the human body and give it gestural and emotional expression. From Donatello's realistic sculptures. (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.)
Masaccio's rising fame peaked in 1425 when he collaborated with Masolino to create several frescoes for the Brancacci Chapel in Florence's Santa Maria del Carmine church. These massive frescoes, which he painted alongside those by Masolino and featured scenes from the bible, would become some of the most significant of his career.
Later that year, Masolino visited Hungary, so Masaccio was left in charge of the decoration. He kept working on it for a while and even made trips back to the chapel in between finishing other commissions. At this time, Masaccio started to get other illustrious commissions around this time, most notably for the fresco in the Santa Maria Novella church.
Masaccio traveled to Rome in 1428, where he passed away at age 26 in the year's second half. His death's circumstances continue to be a mystery. Although many now believe he passed away from the plague, a dramatic account claims a rival artist poisoned him.
In any case, as Brunelleschi noted, "we have suffered a very great loss" with the passing of Masaccio. The Masaccio Legacy Despite having had a brief career, Massacio established himself as one of the Early Renaissance's most significant artists. He is frequently regarded as one of the earliest true Renaissance artists. Those who came after him, like Fillipo Lippi, Fra Angelico, and Andrea del Castagno, studied his work and took inspiration from it.
Later in the Renaissance, artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo were all influenced by his sculptural representation of the human form. Piero della Francesca's work was mainly influenced by his use of linear perspective. Masaccio, who introduced the perspective and naturalism that would characterize the art of the Renaissance and dominate Western European art until the late 19th century, has rightfully been hailed as one of the most significant figures in the history of Western painting. (The Art Story, n.d.)
The Legacy of Masaccio
Masaccio was the first person to master perspective and depth on a two-dimensional surface fully. Before his arrival, paintings were flat, ornamental images beholden to the staid Gothic tradition. He turned them into windows on walls that looked into a parallel universe with comparable spatial dimensions to our own. Significantly, Michelangelo was greatly influenced by his frescoes. Vasari, a famous Florentine biographer and the latter's close friend was still in awe of Masaccio's legacy 140 years after the artist's mysterious passing. Vasari frothed, "He produced work that is living, realistic, and natural, whereas everything is done before he can be described as artificial." (The Guardian, 2008)
art in context. (2022, April 1). artincontext.org. artincontext.org. https://artincontext.org/masaccio/
The Art Story. (n.d.). www.theartstory.org. Retrieved August 6, 2022, from https://www.theartstory.org/artist/masaccio/
Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). www.britannica.com. Retrieved August 6, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Masaccio
The Guardian. (2008, July 7). www.theguardian.com. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2008/jul/07/masacciothegreatestrenaissa