Our Classics & Masters section contains many of the finest masterpieces created throughout the history of art until the beginning of the 20th Century.
Western art usually traces its origins back to the Italian Renaissance. Greatly influenced by ancient Greek and Roman sources, early renaissance art tends to be formal and restrained. The style of painting and sculpture later became more naturalistic as the human figure was celebrated in all its glory. Much art during that period was commissioned by or for the Catholic Church, and was often large scale, presenting the Life of Christ painted in fresco. The years of the Italian High Renaissance in Florence, Rome and Mantua were characterised by the harmonious yet restrained ideals of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo.
Following on from the high renaissance the Mannerists in Florence are notable for their freer handling of paint and theatrical lighting. The trend towards increased naturalism and drama reached its peak during the Baroque period of the 1600s with artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens and Caravaggio pioneering the use of chiaroscuro; a strong contrast between light and dark. In France meanwhile Nicolas Poussin drew on classical themes and developed a lighter palette.
During the 1700s David and Ingres were among the artists that drew on the influences of Poussin in developing neoclassicism. Entering the 1800s, Delacroix and Gericault were among the proponents of Romanticism, which drew inspiration instead from painters like Rubens and Titian. In England Turner drew on similar sources as well as creating poignant images of a changing world as the industrial revolution began.
Browse through our collection of historical masterpieces to discover far more about the artists and movements that have shaped our culture and choose one of these pieces as an enduring reminder of mankind's greatest achievements.
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