Artist Of The Month: Paolo Uccello
Florentine Renaissance Painter
Paolo Uccello (1397 - December 10, 1475) was born Paolo di Dono in Florence. He was a Florentine painter of the early Renaissance who pioneered the use of perspective in art. He was also a student of mathematics and he portrayed people in three-dimensional space by using geometrical calculations to work out perspective foreshortening. His studies influenced great masters of the Renaissance like Leonardo da Vinci and Piero della Francesca.
Very little is known about Uccello’s early life, the only real source being a biography by Giorgio Vasari, written 75 years after the painter’s death.
When Uccello was only ten years old he was apprenticed to Lorenzo Ghiberti, one of the most influential sculptors of the Renaissance. Donatello was also an apprentice in the same workshop and the two artists became lifelong friends.
In 1414 Uccello was accepted as a member of the local painters’ guild and one year later he joined the official Florentine painters’ guild, the Arte dei Medici e degli Speziali. Unfortunately, none of his works from this period have survived. The earliest surviving works by the artist are some very badly damaged frescoes depicting scenes from the creation in the Green Cloister of Santa Maria Novella. Even so, the graceful lines bear witness to the artist’s future direction in the development of perspective.
In 1425 Paolo Uccello went to Venice to work on a commission for the mosaics that once decorated the buildings of San Marco. This work also, has not survived. In 1432 he received an invitation to work in Florence on a series of frescoes for local churches and private patrons. He would remain in Florence for the rest of his life.
Two years later Uccello’s next masterpiece, and the one in which his theories of perspective were first fully applied, was painted in 1436 for the Florence cathedral. It is a monochrome fresco of Sir John Hawkwood, an English mercenary who had been commander-in-chief of the Florentine army in its battles against the Viscount of Milan in the 1390s. The city-state of Florence had originally wanted to erect a bronze statue to their hero, but because it was too expensive, they commissioned Paolo Uccello to produce a painting that looked like a sculpture.
In 1447 Uccello painted one of his most important works, again in the Green Chapel of Santa Maria Novella. It is based on the Biblical tale of the Great Flood. The perspective used in this work is evidence of the artist’s analytic way of thinking and shows the influence of his friend and fellow artist Donatello, but more importantly shows the developing style of the Renaissance that was just emerging from the embers of the decorative Gothic style of painting.
Some time between 1450-1456 Paolo Uccello produced what is perhaps his best-known work, The Rout of San Romano, which depicts the victory of the Florentine army over their enemy, the city-state of Sienna in 1432. The three panels were produced for the Medici Palace in Florence. In this work, the battle is depicted as an almost unbelievable mesh of horses and riders tangled up with lancers and pennants in an abstract, geometrical landscape, unified by the use of color and foreshortening.
It is not known exactly when Paolo Uccello married Tomassa Malfici, but by 1453 they were certainly married because they had their first child, a boy named Donato, and three years later Uccello’s daughter Antonia, who would grow up to be a painter like her father, was born.
In his later years, Uccello became a recluse, a lonely old man afraid of the poverty he was facing. His wife Tomassa was ill and he was too old to paint. In November of 1475 Paolo Uccello drew up his will, and on December 10 of that same year he died at the Florence hospital. He was buried in his father’s tomb in Florence.
You can find a large collection of Paolo Uccello patterns to use with SegPlayPC™  here.
Art in the News:
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Cover-Up
This cover-up has made the headlines all over Italy and has art historians up in arms; only, it has nothing to do with politics or the Mafia. No, this particular cover-up by Italy’s Prime Minister involves the 18th century masterpiece “The Truth Unveiled by Time” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, which serves as a backdrop for press conferences in the Prime Minister’s official residence.
So what’s all the fuss about? Reuters reports that aides to the Prime Minister had the painting altered to cover up the bare-breasted allegorical figure of Truth because her nipple could be seen in the TV footage of government press conferences. "That breast, that nipple ... it ends up exactly inside the frame captured by TV news stations at press conferences" said Mr. Berlusconi’s spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti.
Art critics have described the alteration as “crazy”. Fortunately, it is only a copy. The original painting is still bare-breasted and is housed in the Palazzo Chiericati civic museum in Vicenza.
Caravaggio Masterpiece Stolen in Odessa Heist
Source: Kyiv Post
A priceless masterpiece by Italian Baroque painter Michelangelo da Caravaggio, “The Taking of Christ”, was stolen recently from a museum in Odessa, Ukraine. The robbery was not particularly dramatic or daring; rather, it was due to negligence and lax security, a known problem at Ukrainian museums, which house dozens of masterpieces.
Security is so lax that museum authorities cannot even confirm exactly when the robbery took place; all they can state is that they believe it happened some time between the evening of July 29 and early morning on July 31.
It is thought that just one art thief was involved who bypassed the museum’s outdated alarm system by carefully removing the glass panes from the window and entering the museum (breaking the window would have set off the alarm). The thief then cut the painting from its frame and got away through the roof of a nearby building.
The stolen masterpiece is though to be work up to $100 million.
Sticky Notes as High Art
Source: ABC News
An Iowa man makes use of office supplies to recreate the Mona Lisa (see the video!)
Oscar-winning animator draws film with crayons
Source: CNN News
Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki foregoes computer graphics and returns to the pencil and crayon for his latest film, an East-meets-West nod to Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid."
Outside the Lines
Michelangelo was left handed and in his famous masterpiece of David and Goliath, he painted David holding a sling in his left hand.
The name “Uccello” was in fact nickname given to Paolo Uccello, meaning “Paul of the birds” because of his fascination with portraying birds and animals.
When the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci was stolen from the Louvre museum in Paris in 1912, crooks sold six forgeries to art collectors for large sums of money before the original was recovered three years later.
Paolo Uccello was so absorbed by the mathematical challenges presented by the study of perspective that when his wife chided him that it was bedtime he would answer: “"Oh what a lovely thing this perspective is!"