• Raphaël (Raffaello Sanzio) (Urbino, 1483 - Rome, 1520) Raphaël est l'artiste moderne qui ressemble le plus à Phidias. Les Grecs eux-mêmes disaient que ce dernier n'avait rien inventé, mais qu'il avait porté toutes les formes d'art créées par ses prédécesseurs à un tel degré de perfection, qu'il atteignit l'harmonie pure et parfaite. Cette expression «harmonie pure et parfaite » exprime, en réalité, mieux que toute autre ce que Raphaël apporta à l'art italien. Au Pérugin, il emprunta les grâces plutôt fragiles et la douce limpidité de l'école ombrienne qui s'éteignit avec lui. Á Florence, il acquit force et assurance, et fonda un style basé sur la synthèse des enseignements de Léonard et de Michel-Ange, éclairée par la lumière de son propre et noble esprit. Ses compositions sur le thème traditionnel de la Vierge et de l'Enfant semblaient extrêmement novatrices à ses contemporains, et seule leur gloire consacrée nous empêche aujourd'hui de percevoir leur originalité. Nul avant lui n'avait traité ce sujet sacré avec la poésie d'une idylle familière, avec un tel air d'éternelle jeunesse, cette douce limpidité, n'excluant ni l'amplitude ni la majesté de la conception. Il mérite, à nos yeux, plus de considération encore, pour la composition et la réalisation des fresques avec lesquelles, dès 1509, il orna les Stanze et les Loggie du Vatican. Le sublime, auquel Michel-Ange parvint par son ardeur et sa passion, Raphaël l'atteignit par un équilibre souverain entre intelligence et sensibilité. L'un de ses chefs-d'oeuvre, L'Ecole d'Athènes, est un monde autonome créé par un génie ; jamais ne faiblira notre admiration pour les innombrables détails, les portraits de visages inégalés même par les plus grands peintres du genre, la souplesse du geste, l'aisance de la composition, la vie qui circule partout grâce à la lumière, tout cela magnifié par l'attrait tout-puissant de la pensée.

  • Leonardo´s early life was spent in Florence, his maturity in Milan, and the last three years of his life in France. Leonardo´s teacher was Verrocchio. First he was a goldsmith, then a painter and sculptor: as a painter, representative of the very scientific school of draughtsmanship; more famous as a sculptor, being the creator of the Colleoni statue at Venice, Leonardo was a man of striking physical attractiveness, great charm of manner and conversation, and mental accomplishment. He was well grounded in the sciences and mathematics of the day, as well as a gifted musician. His skill in draughtsmanship was extraordinary; shown by his numerous drawings as well as by his comparatively few paintings. His skill of hand is at the service of most minute observation and analytical research into the character and structure of form. Leonardo is the first in date of the great men who had the desire to create in a picture a kind of mystic unity brought about by the fusion of matter and spirit. Now that the Primitives had concluded their experiments, ceaselessly pursued during two centuries, by the conquest of the methods of painting, he was able to pronounce the words which served as a password to all later artists worthy of the name: painting is a spiritual thing, cosa mentale. He completed Florentine draughtsmanship in applying to modelling by light and shade, a sharp subtlety which his predecessors had used only to give greater precision to their contours. This marvellous draughtsmanship, this modelling and chiaroscuro he used not solely to paint the exterior appearance of the body but, as no one before him had done, to cast over it a reflection of the mystery of the inner life. In the Mona Lisa and his other masterpieces he even used landscape not merely as a more or less picturesque decoration, but as a sort of echo of that interior life and an element of a perfect harmony. Relying on the still quite novel laws of perspective this doctor of scholastic wisdom, who was at the same time an initiator of modern thought, substituted for the discursive manner of the Primitives the principle of concentration which is the basis of classical art. The picture is no longer presented to us as an almost fortuitous aggregate of details and episodes. It is an organism in which all the elements, lines and colours, shadows and lights, compose a subtle tracery converging on a spiritual, a sensuous centre. It was not with the external significance of objects, but with their inward and spiritual significance, that Leonardo was occupied.

  • Léonard de Vinci (Vinci, 1452 - Le Clos-Lucé, 1519) Léonard passa la première partie de sa vie à Florence, la seconde à Milan et ses trois dernières années en France. Le professeur de Léonard fut Verrocchio, d'abord orfèvre, puis peintre et sculpteur. En

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