A second interesting question arose from the first session of ‘A History of Women Artists’

Italian v. Netherlandish Renaissance Art

Why is Italian Renaissance Art so much more sophisticated than its Netherlandish counterpart?
Being a Mediterranean country, the Italian artists were far more influenced by Classical Culture which had developed a sophisticated skill in the portrayal of the human form (note all those marble statues!). There was also a lot more Classically-based theory circulating about art and its premises. Harmony, proportion, perspective all came under scrutiny. Many treatises were published, such as Alberti’s On Painting. Due to the prevalence of fresco painting in Italy (not a suitable technique in Northern territory due to the wetter climate), there was a freer approach to painting (strokes had to be done quickly before the plaster dried). The Italian artists were not as hung up on detail (though the Northern oil painting advances did influence them), and were more concerned with idealism than realism. Finally, though both Italy and the Netherlands were deeply religious countries, there was far more piety and religious fervour in the latter.  Humanism and its related secularisation had taken deep hold in liberal Italy, but not so in the North where a hesitancy in being aesthetic and an almost childlike reticence, restricted the depiction of human life.