Giovanni Cimabue

Giovanni Cimabue, who is known as the "Father of Modern Painting", was the first artist whose work is credited with decided breaking away from the Byzantine style. His figures, while retaining many of the characteristics of the art of the Ancient World, are natural and human, his faces are not blank, but expressive, and his pictures portray a lifelike representation of his subjects. He painted people and things as they appeared in the every day life of the community in which he lived and worked.

This great painter was born about the middle of the thirteenth century, and was a member of a wealthy and prominent Florentine family. His talent for painting was developed under the instructions of Byzantine artists and his works are considered the link which connects the ancient and modern schools of painting, for while retaining some features of the Byzantine period, the natural attitude and countenances of the figures in his pictures mark his works as distinctly modern.

His greatest painting was that of his Madonna and Child. This picture is of colossal proportions and was greatly admired by the people of Florence. In fact, they were so interested in its production, that when it was completed, the principal citizens of the city visited Cimabue's studio to view it. The picture was then carried to the church of St. Maria Novella in a procession made up of all the principal inhabitants of Florence. It was truly a day of rejoicing for the Florentines, and their expressions of pleasure and gladness were accompanied by the blowing of trumpets and the beating of drums.

Enthroned Madonna and Child, 1280
Cimabue (1240-1302)

The celebration held on that day, more than six hundred years ago, my dear children, marked the birth of modern painting, and in their public expression of joy the residents of the city of Florence recognized and paid enthusiastic honor to the art born in their midst and to the subject portrayed by the artist.

Crucifix, 1275
Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy
Cimabue (1240-1302)

And now, children, there are three important things I want to call to your attention and impress upon your minds. They are -

1st --- About five thousand years after art was born, the first great painting was produced.

2nd --- It was painted by Giovanni Cimabue, a native of Florence.

3rd and most important --- It was a representation of the Infant Jesus and His Blessed Mother.

This famous painting was produced by Cimabue at a time when Italian art was falling into decay, and through its production, modern painting in all its beauty arose from the ruins of the decadent art of the ancient world.

Some of Cimabue's best work was done in the Upper Church of Assisi where he painted scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

Madonna and Child Enthroned, 1275
Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy
Cimabue (1240-1302)

Cimabue's wonderful progress did not die with him, for his ideas were carried out by one he had trained and introduced to the art world, an artist who was destined to excel him. This man's name was Giotti. His discovery by Cimabue reads like a fairy tale, and I am sure you will enjoy hearing it.

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