This paper goes back into history and evaluates Raphael’s School of Athens painting through exploring its formalism. The formalism of this painting will be evaluated in this paper by contrasting its perception, structure, visual characteristics, and style. The school of Athens was a fresco painting because it was done in sections on fresh plaster. It is highlighted in one of the Stanza della Segnatura rooms’ walls in the Vatican palace that had been identified to accommodate the Papal Library. Raphael employed the fresco technique to bring out the form in this painting.
The fresco technique entailed the preparation of a cartoon in the preliminary stages. Upon drawing the cartoon, the section of the wall that is readied for the painting is covered with wet plaster. The design’s outline is then transferred onto the fresh plaster through pressing dry pigment on the cartoon’s perforations. Upon getting this outline, an artist can then paint the picture’s full design. The pigments are physically integrated into the plaster after it dries. This ensures that the fresco becomes stable for centuries (Haas 8).
Raphael’s School of Athens painting brought life into the Library collection through his imagined scene of the outstanding Greek philosophers in actions like conversing, thinking, and writing. He used faces of renowned classical statutes and in other figures, he employed models of his own contemporaries. Through the creative use of line, quality, colour, and shape, Raphael managed to come with an outstanding form. The picture contained about 60 individuals, but he still combined them in a befitting, harmonious, and clear design. This brought out the dignity and classic significance of this form (Haas 8).
Plato is at the picture’s centre and is seen gesturing at his ideas in heaven and Aristotle who gestures to the actual world on the earth. Since each of the two men is pictured with one of their famous books, their identities are not ambiguous. However, the most significant part of this picture is that Raphael has creatively captured the fundamental nature of the two outstanding men’s philosophies in instantaneously readable forms through their gestures. The picture then smartly divides into two where Aristotle and his perceived group of realists are on the right while Plato with his perceived idealists is seen on the left (Haas 9).
Socrates is depicted on the left of Plato prolifically arguing with his disciples who included Alcibiades, Phaedo, and Crito. Epicurus, the arch-epicurean, is perceived to be at the lower left leaning on the marble block. He has a satisfied grin on his chubby face and is clad in a crown of fig leaves. Next to this is the Pope’s Librarian whose portrait was finished by fine oil portrait. On the rear left of the picture is Pythagoras whose little disciple is seen holding mystic formulae and diagramming musical intervals (Haas 9).
The creativity by which Raphael clad abstract ideas into forms of beauty and life is portrayed better in his Pythagorean picture. Pythagoras is pictured writing his discoveries in numbers and harmony while seated. The oriental figure that peers over his shoulder represent the impact of the East’s mysticism over his thinking. The boy that holds several diagrams before his master symbolizes the hope that the apparent nature’s complexity is just as uncomplicated as a child’s arithmetic. The mechanisms and spirit that typify learning and teaching at its finest are beautifully exemplified in the line, quality, colour and shape (form) of the picture thus giving it its contemporary name the school of Athens (Watson 12).
The lawgiver Solon is pictured standing secluded at the top far right swathed in his thoughts and cloak. Two painters enter from the far right corner; Raphael’s face is depicted as the left one who is perceived to be asking if the audience like his painting. Apart from the painters, two astronomers, Strabo and Ptolemy, are pictured holding the sky and earth globes. Finally, the person standing next to them is Euclid, who demonstrates a geometric edifice to his captivated disciples. Arches in Raphael’s paintings are typified by half circles through which he brings out the form (Haas 10).
All the four walls in the Stanza della Segnatura contain Raphael’s decorations of fresco paintings. Directly opposite the School of Athens wall is a wall containing a religious fresco christened La Dispute. It depicts the Eucharist celebrated by saints and popes on earth, and biblical characters in the heavens as well as God in the Trinity. The stanza fresco, which Raphael uses to ingeniously create this painting, forms a unified program. The incredible Greek thinkers in the Athens school generate optimum truths obtainable only through intellect. This truth then emerges as fulfilled and completed in faith on the opposite wall. This entirety incredibly portrays Raphael’s ingenuity to bring forth complex forms into pictured life (Haas 11).
Raphael had a great borrowing for academic motifs; he inexorably shared in the contempt of academic art. However, he managed to retain by virtue of all fluctuations of sophisticated taste; his deep-rooted popularity amongst simpler minds. After developing many religious themes, he graduated into painting people as is the case in the school of Athens painting. In the school of Athens painting, Raphael captured all formalism elements. In this painting, people can identify with forms such as line, quality, colour, and shape.
Haas, Robert. Raphael’s School of Athens: A theorem in a Painting. Journal of humanistic mathematics. Vol 2, No 2, July 2012: 8-11. Print.
Watson E.C. Science in Art, Raphael’s School of Athens. Prentice Hall: London. (2010): 12. Print.
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