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The flourishing of the artistic spirit

Last night I had dinner with a cultivated lawyer who is an aficionado of the art of the early Renaissance. He made the point that Masaccio, Brunoleschi, Ghiberti and Donatello flourished in a time of the Black Plague, internecine wars with other Republic City states and in the case of Donatello he had to deal with a McCarthy style witch hunt of homosexuals. Of course the creativity did not stop then as the Renaissance continued with Raffael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. There was great patronage for the Medicis to help but my friend’s analysis set me wondering about upheaval and the flourishing of the artistic spirit.

I thought of 4 other epochs and locations of the fecundity of artistic talent. Regency England produced Constable, Reynolds, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge and with the forerunner of Gainsborough. This was certainly a time of upheaval with war with France in the air. Vienna at the turn of the century produced Klimt, Zweig, Freud, Schnitzler and Schiele. The Habsburg Empire was in its last days. Paris in the twenties housed Picasso, Diaghilev, Hemingway, Costeau, the Fitzgeralds, and had not long recovered from the Great War with the depression and the next war round the corner. Britain in the sixties produced the Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who, Richard Hamilton and pop art, and a raft of working class actors (Finney, Caine, Courtenay) playwrights (Stoppard, Frayn) in the last days of the empire. However in 1967 we had a devaluation and troubled economic times.

Perhaps the best comment came from a film recenlty discussed here. Harry Lime in the Third Man refers to the years of friction producing the Renaissance and all that Switzerland could offer after 500 orderly peaceful years was the cuckoo clock.

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About Alice Mansfield

A graduate of the Slade, Alice has painted and written about art all her life. With her children now having now grown up and departed the nest, she recently took up sculpture. More Posts