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What is the Mannerist Movement?

The Mannerist movement refers to two groups: Academic Mannerism and Free Mannerism. Following the height of the Renaissance, the great masters Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael added to the major artistic treasures of Italy. Mannerism was an important transitional style from the rationality of Renaissance art to the grandeur of the Baroque.

Academic Mannerism painters created in the manner of the great Renaissance masters. Artists and architects like Giorgio Vasari and Andrea Palladio felt that there should be a school that continued teaching the geometric, proportional, and classical style that Renaissance art developed. Instead of learning from natural observation, these artists studied the paintings themselves in order to create almost a formulaic approach to art. For academic Mannerists, Renaissance art was the highest form art could take and they worked diligently to continue this tradition.

If Academic Mannerists were the teacher’s pet of the art world, Free Mannerists were the bad boys, the rebels. They wanted to break away from the rules that Renaissance art established to create a new mannered style. Instead of depicting nature realistically, they distorted reality and played with imagination. They distorted the human form, exaggerated proportions, and twisted figures in awkward ways. Their compositions were unnatural and jumbled with contorted bodies and imagined landscapes. Renaissance techniques, such as Chiaroscuro—or the blending of light and shade—were used to create almost a nervous energy to the paintings. Jacopo Pontormo’s painting, Entombment, is a great example of Free mannerism. This cramped painting of Jesus being taken off the cross is filled with bodies in various movements. Features are exaggerated, facial expressions are severe, and the landscape is empty except for one mysterious cloud. Free Mannerism was eccentric and radical, with its style advancing the limits of artistic expression.

Even though Academic mannerists felt that Renaissance art was the end of the road, Free Mannerists proved that art could still change and progress. Their style would grow in popularity all throughout Europe and become the leading influence of the Baroque style in the following years.

Notable Works:

Giorgio Vasari, Italy. Florence. Dome of Brunelleschi. Last Judgement. 1572. Fresco.

Paolo Veronese, The Wedding at Cana. 1563. Oil on Canvas.

Jacopo Pontormo, Entombment or Deposition from the Cross. 1526-28. Oil on Canvas.

Parmigianino, Madonna with the Long Neck. 1534-40. Oil on Canvas.

By: Get Inspired