Mr. Blashfield said that during the period of the Renaissance from 1250 to 1500, Italy was continually a battle-field, yet through all this strife the artists flourished. Hardly ever have chisel and brush been busier; in the midst of war, beauty began to take its shape.
Giotto, one of the greatest masters of the Renaissance, was the beginner of dramatic art. The great strength of his art was his naive suppression of all unnecessary detail and his extreme simplicity of selection. His greatest work is the decoration of the Franciscan Church of Assizi, in Florence.
Giotto seems to have been alone in his work, for no one could compare with him for years. For a hundred years after his time there was not a work which showed any appreciation by the the artists of the beauties of the human form. All their figures they clothed in heavy draperies; and even Fra Angelico, the best of them, seemed to consider the nude below his dignity.
Those who followed Giotto, abandoned his simplicity of style and filled their paintings with unnecessary detail, but there came one among them who returned to the early principles; this man was Fra Angelico. Though Giotto and Fra Angelico succeeded in their style, still naive "leaving out" and scientific elimination must be united with their genius, to constitute real decorative art.
Some of the paintings of our time may rise to as high a level as those of the Renaissance, but the art of that time was on the whole above us. Though we may laugh at the simplicity of some of the early masters, its effect on our own style has been marked. Few, if any, modern artists have succeeded in reproducing it.
At the close of his lecture Mr. Blashfield showed a large number of stereopticon views illustrative of decorative art.