What are the factors behind periods of artistic brilliance?

Jul 2010
385
Perfidious Albion
As the title says, what are the factors that lead to brilliant outpourings of artistic and literary talent, as in 4th- and 3rd-century BC Athens, 1st-century BC Rome, or Renaissance Europe? One factor that I've noticed with these periods is that they all witnessed a lot of political fragmentation and strife. So, perhaps surprisingly, it might be that a certain level of conflict can act as a spur to greater artistic creativity, perhaps by making people think of more sublime topics (the presence of suffering in our lives does often make us think harder about what is really valuable), and by making it easier for artists to find a patron (since if your local ruler doesn't like your work, you can move twenty miles down the road to the next city-state and offer your services there). Obviously there can't be so much conflict that everybody's too busy fighting for survival to do anything else, and since there have been other artistic golden ages in times of peace this cannot be the whole story, but it is a possible factor.

Anyone have any other thoughts?
 

Naima

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
2,323
Venice
As the title says, what are the factors that lead to brilliant outpourings of artistic and literary talent, as in 4th- and 3rd-century BC Athens, 1st-century BC Rome, or Renaissance Europe? One factor that I've noticed with these periods is that they all witnessed a lot of political fragmentation and strife. So, perhaps surprisingly, it might be that a certain level of conflict can act as a spur to greater artistic creativity, perhaps by making people think of more sublime topics (the presence of suffering in our lives does often make us think harder about what is really valuable), and by making it easier for artists to find a patron (since if your local ruler doesn't like your work, you can move twenty miles down the road to the next city-state and offer your services there). Obviously there can't be so much conflict that everybody's too busy fighting for survival to do anything else, and since there have been other artistic golden ages in times of peace this cannot be the whole story, but it is a possible factor.

Anyone have any other thoughts?
If not wrong Renaissence started in Italy in 1400 -1500 , it moved then to other nations gradually making in 1600 in England and so on . Roman period had a long period of artistry and it varied alot according to the regions .
Mostly I think when there is money and things go well art prosper , when there is no money and things do not go well , money are spent for other things .
 
Mar 2011
217
I'm thinking your thread title is problematic "artistic brilliance" Subjective quality judgement, no? Take Kipling, an amazingly unfashionable writer who was capable of brilliant work. Charlie Chaplin, everyone acknowledges his genius, but only hard core movie buffs and film students seem to actually watch his movies these days :) See what I'm getting at here.

You mean periods of outstanding creativity, where one way of looking at it would be that so much stuff was produced some of it was spectacular and survived the test of time. Which applies to the Renaissance as well as it does to punk rock.

None of which actually answers your question does it. Sometimes it seems as if a social 'liberation' event is the seed of one of these moments, when people find (or make) themselves free of some oppressive condition. But other times it looks as though a society experiencing stress produces great quantities of originality like Berlin 1930's.

My suggestion, it's the change! whether good or bad a change in conditions provokes people to try and express it. Oh, and when it occurs, it's infectious...
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
I agree with what was said about fragmentation being a factor. More patrons, more potential support. And more freedom, since if you find one patron too restrictive, you can find another that may be less so.

But another factor is that when you concentrate top notch talent in a region, artist tend to inspire each other to improve their art. They learn from each other and lead to innovation. Once an area develops a reputation, talented people will travel to that city or institution, which will make that city even more brilliant.

Charles Murray stated in his book on "Human Accomplishment" that human innovations and achievements in the arts are concentrated in certain cities and and times.

Murray collected many data for each innovator and did a statistical analysis. One result was that accomplishment has not been uniformly distributed. For example, in Italian Renaissance, accomplishment was concentrated in Florence and Venice. In the British Isles, around London, the industrial north, and lowland Scotland.....

There is a relationship between closeness to elite universities and human accomplishment (but not between non-elite universities and accomplishment). Furthermore, innovation is self–reinforcing: Where there has been innovation, likely more will occur.

The book argued that "Streams of accomplishment are fostered by political regimes that give de facto freedom of action to their potential artists and scholars". This means freedom of expression and innovation. It does not necessarily mean democracy although totalitarianism suppressed innovation. War and civil unrest did not affect innovation.

Religious liberty increased innovation. Jews had "sparse representation in European arts and sciences through the beginning of the 19C", but within a century Jews were disproportionately represented (except in astronomy). This coincided with the emancipation of Jews who earlier had been denied legal rights and access to universities and public office. Human Accomplishment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,626
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Well, if we focus the attention on Italian Renaissance, we can think to a certain competition among the Lordships in the field of art.

We could make a comparison with American cities and skyscrapers. There has been a period when it was a real "race" to the sky. A race to be The city with the highest and most beautiful buildings.

Today we would talk about symbols of power, of richness, of political influence. In the Renaissance it was the same. Florence wanted the best artists, Venice wanted the best artists, Rome, Naples, Milan, Turin, Verona ... all cities looking for the best artists, architects, engineers ... to demonstrate their richness and power.

Centuries before it was about cathedrals. In all Europe there were wide construction sites where generations and generations of masons [to realize a cathedral it took more than a generation] worked to give to a city an absolute symbol of power.