The Renaissance Unchained
Confirmed for BBC Four on 15 February at 9pm to 10pm
Monday 15 February
According to Giorgio Vasari, the first art historian, the Renaissance was centred on a revival of interest in classical art that began and flourished in Italy. Waldemar disagrees, and accuses Vasari of errant jingoism. In fact, the most significant early developments in Renaissance art took place not in Italy, but in the ‘barbarian’ lands of Flanders and Germany. Instead of understanding the Renaissance as a return to classical models, we should see it as a climax of medieval values - an epoch of huge religious passions and powerful human emotions.
The series will celebrate material that is new to television. Waldemar will include art that is not usually thought of as Renaissance art. This will involve 're-classifying' what is sometimes called Late Gothic, and showing it off as a marvellous and native artistic tradition, particularly in the remarkable field of polychrome sculpture. On top of all the new art to be introduced, Waldemar will also look from fresh and intriguing angles at many of the established Renaissance giants, including Michelangelo in the Vatican, Leonardo in the Louvre, Botticelli in the Uffizi and Van Eyck in Ghent.
In the first episode Waldemar will challenge the southern ‘myth’ of the Renaissance, and showcase the pioneering achievements of the north. With the invention of oil paints and the development of optics and lenses, artists such as Van Eyck, Memling, Van der Weyden, Cranach, Riemenschneider and Durer took art into marvellous new territories.
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