Artist, Architect. Acknowledged as the most important painter of the 1300s. Giotto's art represented the first stirrings of the Italian Renaissance. He broke with the flat, unrealistic Byzantine style of his day and painted from direct observation of nature. Although he rarely used genuine perspective, he achieved a sense of depth through skillful use of light and shadow and a remarkable gift for composition. Above all he emphasized the human drama in his religious scenes, which still retain their emotional impact. Giotto's genius is best seen in the 38 frescoes he executed for the Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel in Padua, Italy between roughly 1303 and 1313. Most are scenes from the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary. They include "The Annunciation", "Adoration of the Magi", "The Massacre of the Innocents", "The Flight into Egypt", "The Crucifixion", "Lamentation", and "The Last Judgement". Later masterworks are his frescoes for the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels of the Church of Santa Croce in Florence (c. 1318 to 1320). Little is known for certain of Giotto's life. He was born near Florence and served his apprenticeship under Cimabue, the last great painter of the Byzantine tradition. By 1300 he was already famous and operating a large Florentine workshop to handle his commissions from all over Italy, most of which have sadly been lost. In 1334 he was appointed chief architect of the Cathedral of Florence and designed the striking campanile (bell tower) that stands beside it, though he only lived to see the first two stories completed and his plans were altered afterwards. When he died at 70 (or thereabouts) Giotto was a legendary figure, celebrated by such contemporary authors as Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch, but with the rise of the Renaissance he fell into a long period of neglect. He was rediscovered by English art critics in the late 19th Century.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards