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Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance

Study masterpieces by such great Renaissance artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian in this visually-rich course taught by an art historian.
Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 96.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent in every way This course is excellent in every way. I really like the way the Lecturer shares his personal preference and appreciation of certain works and why. The details he points out and their broader meaning are illuminating. Of course, the subject matter is irresistible. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2024-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Course! Prof. Kloss does a magnificent job of selecting, describing, and providing historical context for each of the artists and works that he covers in this excellent course. The artworks are beautifully photographed, and Prof. Kloss has many interesting and informative things to say about each one as well as the artist who created it. Prof. Kloss exudes an intellectual confidence and a respect for his audience that is refreshing. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2023-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great insight Professor Kloss combines exceptional presentation skills such as organization, personalization of subject matter and passion for the subject to make Renaissance Art come alive. This course would be a valuable asset for those intending to visit Italy, even though some of these great works can be found in museums around the world.
Date published: 2023-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Enjoyable and informative I wish I'd completed this course before I went to Italy. Still I did see many of the works he reviews. This was a thoroughly enjoyable course and he is a pleasure to listen to. So knowledgeable and obviously enjoyed sharing all of this information.
Date published: 2023-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterful presentation of the subject matter. One of the very best of the Great Courses on art history, I was swept up by not only the beauty of the subject matter, but also the threads Mr. Kloss wove to tie it all together. One of his best!
Date published: 2023-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A tour de force survey of Renaissance art The man deserves 6 or more stars. Having watched many teachers over many Great Courses from the days they came on VHS tapes, William Kloss stands out as paragon of erudition, wit, modesty, and sly charm. He has an intriguing style of delivery where he looks like he is about to share some delicious little fact that he knows you are going to love to hear. And he's right. His devotion to his Art shines though every class and I found the program a surprisingly life-affirming experience.
Date published: 2023-02-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The instructors are boring! Its like watching paint dry
Date published: 2022-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from First rate! This course is outstanding. Bill Kloss brings his usual passion for the material to these lectures. He presents a wide ranging perspective on the Italian Renaissance and this course surveys all of the key masters and their works. You’ll find a good mix of painting and sculpture, as well as some architecture. You cannot go wrong with Professor Kloss presentation of any period of art. He is a masterful art historian and lecturer.
Date published: 2022-04-03
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No era of artistic achievement is as renowned as the Renaissance, and no country holds a higher place in it than Italy. In this course you experience supreme artworks created in Florence, Rome, Venice, and other Italian cities by such masters as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian-unequaled masterpieces that established a canon of beauty that pervades Western culture to this day. Independent art historian, scholar, and curator William Kloss is your guide through this visual feast in an artist-centered survey that explores hundreds of different paintings and sculptures.


William Kloss

Standards of beauty are seemingly endless and contradictory, which is why the rather hopeless phrase 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' was coined.


Independent Art Historian

Professor William Kloss is an independent art historian and scholar who lectures and writes about a wide range of European and American art. He was educated at Oberlin College, where he earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Art History. He continued his postgraduate work on a teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan and was then awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for two years of study in Rome. As Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Virginia, he taught 17th- and 18th-century European art and 19th-century French art. Professor Kloss has enjoyed a long association with the Smithsonian Institution, presenting more than 150 courses in the United States and abroad on subjects ranging from ancient Greek art to Impressionism to the works of Winslow Homer. He has also been a featured lecturer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and for The Art Institute of Chicago. Professor Kloss serves on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a presidential appointment he has held since 1990. He is the author of several books, including Art in the White House: A Nation's Pride (2nd edition), which won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the Art Category, as well as a 2009 USABookNews award for Best Book in Art. Most recently, he coauthored the United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art. He also has written articles published in Winterthur Portfolio, The Magazine Antiques, American Arts Quarterly, and Antiques & Fine Art.

By This Expert

A History of European Art
Italy and the Renaissance

01: Italy and the Renaissance

This lecture examines the features of late medieval culture in Italy that paved the way for the Renaissance. In painting, Giotto di Bondone evolved a proto-Renaissance style in contrast to the prevailing late-Gothic style.

32 min
From Gothic to Renaissance

02: From Gothic to Renaissance

Around 1400, a European-wide style known as International Gothic flourished in Italy. Artists including Lorenzo Monaco and Gentile da Fabriano retained this style. Others, such as Lorenzo Ghiberti, developed a new style that we call Renaissance.

30 min
Brunelleschi and Ghiberti in Florence

03: Brunelleschi and Ghiberti in Florence

Architecture is central to understanding the birth of the Renaissance, and it was in Florence that the first great buildings of the Renaissance were constructed. This lecture looks at the buildings of Filippo Brunelleschi and the famous bronze doors of Lorenzo Ghiberti.

30 min
Donatello and Luca della Robbia

04: Donatello and Luca della Robbia

The most influential visual artist in Italy in the 15th century was Donatello. This lecture traces his work until he moved to Padua in 1443. Also covered is Luca della Robbia, whose superb choir gallery for the Florence Cathedral is in direct competition with Donatello's choir gallery for the same church.

29 min

05: Masaccio

The first of two lectures on Masaccio examines his Pisa Altarpiece. Also studied is his monumental fresco The Trinity, with attention to his introduction of one-point perspective....

30 min
Masaccio-The Brancacci Chapel

06: Masaccio-The Brancacci Chapel

This lecture looks at Masaccio's principal frescoes for the Brancacci Chapel, with special attention to their melding of style and narrative content. Masaccio undertook the project with Masolino.

31 min
Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi

07: Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi

Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi were the most important painters in Florence after the death of Masaccio. Fra Angelico was able to switch between a late medieval style and a more realistic Renaissance manner. Fra Filippo Lippi's paintings combine charm and inward quietness.

31 min
Three Specialists

08: Three Specialists

This lecture looks at paintings by three contrasting artists in Florence. Paolo Uccello was devoted to foreshortening and perspective. Andrea del Castagno found ways to make figures look like painted sculptures. And Domenico Veneziano introduced a tonal delicacy and pastel palette from his native Venice.

29 min
Donatello and Padua

09: Donatello and Padua

Continuing the career of Donatello, Professor Kloss covers Donatello's move to Padua to work on a bronze equestrian statue, Gattamelata. Among his other Paduan works is a wooden sculpture, Saint John the Baptist. On returning to Florence, he made the even more expressive Saint Mary Magdalen....

31 min
Piero della Francesca-Individual Works

10: Piero della Francesca-Individual Works

The first of two lectures on Piero della Francesca explores works painted between about 1445 and 1470, including his Baptism of Christ and the famous Resurrection, and later paintings such as the Madonna and Child with Saints and the unfinished Nativity....

30 min
Piero della Francesca-Legend of the True Cross

11: Piero della Francesca-Legend of the True Cross

This lecture covers Piero's great fresco cycle, The Legend of the True Cross, depicting the story of Jesus' cross from its origin in the tree of knowledge to its disappearance and rediscovery by Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine....

28 min
Pageant of Life in Renaissance Florence

12: Pageant of Life in Renaissance Florence

Benozzo Gozzoli and Domenico Ghirlandaio incorporated the civic life of Florence into their narrative paintings, while continuing the Renaissance exploration of pictorial space, both in landscape and in architectural settings.

31 min
The Heroic Nude

13: The Heroic Nude

This lecture considers two artists of the male nude. Antonio del Pollaiuolo's figures are violently dramatic. Luca Signorelli used more static, contemplative poses, but he also created astonishingly physical nudes in Resurrection of the Dead and The Damned Consigned to Hell....

31 min
Sculpture Small and Large

14: Sculpture Small and Large

This lecture looks at four important sculptors and their contrasting contributions to Renaissance art: Antonio Pisanello, Francesco di Giorgio, Antonio Rossellino, and Andrea del Verrocchio.

27 min
Botticelli-Spirituality and Sensuality

15: Botticelli-Spirituality and Sensuality

The first of two lectures on Sandro Botticelli pays particular attention to the Birth of Venus and Primavera (Spring). The latter is one of the most discussed paintings in Renaissance art....

30 min
Botticelli and the Trouble in Italy

16: Botticelli and the Trouble in Italy

In his later career, Botticelli produced works such as the disquieting Calumny of Apelles, possibly painted as a defense of the Puritanical preacher Savonarola, whose execution in 1498 initiated Botticelli's metaphysical phase culminating in the haunting Mystic Nativity....

32 min
Filippino Lippi

17: Filippino Lippi

Filippino Lippi, son of Fra Filippo Lippi, completed the fresco cycle in the Brancacci Chapel left unfinished by Masaccio. Noted for his poetic softness and melancholy, his work took an expressionistic turn toward the end of his life.

31 min
Leonardo da Vinci-Portraits and Altarpieces

18: Leonardo da Vinci-Portraits and Altarpieces

Two lectures are devoted to Leonardo da Vinci, who had already achieved a mature style by his early twenties when he painted Ginevra de' Benci. Also featured are his unfinished Adoration of the Magi, the haunting Madonna of the Rocks, Mona Lisa, and the beautiful Lady with an Ermine....

32 min
Leonardo da Vinci-The Last Supper

19: Leonardo da Vinci-The Last Supper

Professor Kloss sketches the history of Leonardo's The Last Supper, contrasting it with other representations of the subject. Despite its deteriorating state since Leonardo's lifetime, the painting has always overwhelmed viewers by its emotional power....

31 min
Michelangelo-Florentine Works

20: Michelangelo-Florentine Works

The first of three lectures on Michelangelo covers the early career of an artist called "divine" long before his own death. This lecture features his sculptures of Bacchus, the Pieta, David, the Bruges Madonna, and the only finished example of his early forays into painting, the Doni Tondo....

30 min
Michelangelo-Roman Projects

21: Michelangelo-Roman Projects

In the early 1500s, Michelangelo was engaged to paint a fresco of the Battle of Cascina in Florence. It was never completed, since he was summoned to Rome to design a massive papal tomb with sculptures that would become some of his greatest figures, including Moses and Dying Slave....

31 min
Michelangelo-The Sistine Chapel Ceiling

22: Michelangelo-The Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Professor Kloss discusses the symbolic and theological story in the ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, and the unparalleled inventiveness that Michelangelo brought to the task of designing and painting more than 5,700 square feet of ceiling surface in four years.

30 min
Raphael-Madonnas and Portraits

23: Raphael-Madonnas and Portraits

The first of two lectures on Raphael studies his different interpretations of the Madonna and Child theme, for which he is best known. He was also a superb portraitist, as evidenced by his Julius II, Baldassare Castiglione, and Bindo Altoviti....

31 min
Raphael-History Paintings

24: Raphael-History Paintings

Raphael was a master of grand narrative painting of religious, mythological, and secular themes. His greatest works in this genre are the monumental frescoes for the official papal stanzae, or rooms. These include the Disputa, School of Athens, and Expulsion of Heliodorus....

32 min
Urbino-Microcosm of Renaissance Civilization

25: Urbino-Microcosm of Renaissance Civilization

This lecture explores Urbino's palace-fortress, whose gem is the Studiolo, or small study, one of the most famous rooms of the Renaissance. Its beautiful cupboards are decorated with inlaid trompe l'oeil designs, some of which are illusionistic replicas of the books, instruments, and armor they once enclosed....

30 min
Andrea Mantegna in Padua and Mantua

26: Andrea Mantegna in Padua and Mantua

The course moves to Northern Italy-to Padua and Mantua, where Andrea Mantegna was one of the most individualistic artists of the late 15th century. Among his works discussed are the frescoes in the Ovetari Chapel, the famous ceiling fresco of the Camera degli Sposi, and The Dead Christ....

31 min
Venice-Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance

27: Venice-Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance

The first of eight lectures on Venice surveys its setting and history. At the core of the city are the ducal palace and Basilica of San Marco, adorned with bronze horses and the enamel plaques for the Pala d'Oro, plunder from the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade.

32 min
Celebrating the Living City

28: Celebrating the Living City

Vittore Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini were painters devoted to Venice's beauties and virtues, which they displayed in works such as Lion of San Marco by Carpaccio and Miracle of the Cross at Ponte San Lorenzo by Bellini....

30 min
Giovanni Bellini-The Early Years

29: Giovanni Bellini-The Early Years

The first of three lectures on Giovanni Bellini, brother of Gentile, studies his Madonnas and his moving images of the Pieta, or Lamentation. Bellini was Andrea Mantegna's brother-in-law, and their versions of The Agony in the Garden are compositionally similar but stylistically and expressively diverse....

30 min
Antonello da Messina and Giovanni Bellini

30: Antonello da Messina and Giovanni Bellini

One of the major influences on Bellini was Antonello da Messina. This lecture traces that influence through works such as Antonello's San Cassiano Altarpiece and Crucifixion, and Bellini's San Giobbe Altarpiece, Transfiguration, and St. Francis in Ecstasy....

30 min
Giovanni Bellini-The Late Years

31: Giovanni Bellini-The Late Years

This lecture explores the serene style of Bellini in his later years, including Madonna and Child with the Magdalen and St. Catherine, the noble Doge Leonardo Loredan, the San Zaccaria Altarpiece, and the remarkable mythological painting The Feast of the Gods....

31 min

32: Giorgione

Giorgione's masterful use of oils and softness of touch, together with his ambiguous subject matter, have made him one of the most admired artists of his age. He is best known for The Tempest, showing a soldier and a nude woman and child, flanking the opening into a lush, storm-menaced landscape....

30 min
Giorgione or Titian?

33: Giorgione or Titian?

Titian probably completed the paintings left unfinished by Giorgione, who died of plague in 1510. This lecture explores the question of attribution by looking at several "problem pictures," including Sleeping Venus and Adoration of the Shepherds, which caused a famous quarrel in art dealing....

28 min
Titian-The Early Years

34: Titian-The Early Years

Titian's influence has reverberated through the history of art from Rubens to Delacroix to Renoir. This lecture looks at eight of his masterpieces, including the famous Sacred and Profane Love, which is as enigmatic as it is beautiful....

31 min
A Culture in Crisis

35: A Culture in Crisis

The first of two summary lectures compares works from the Early and High Renaissance to judge the stylistic shift that occurred during the period. This shift is mirrored by political turmoil culminating in the sack of Rome by the troops of Emperor Charles V in 1527.

28 min
The Renaissance Reformed

36: The Renaissance Reformed

The Renaissance was succeeded by Mannerism, a style well illustrated by Parmigianino's distorted Madonna of the Long Neck. Some artists resisted the trend, notably Titian. Professor Kloss closes with a final look at three vastly different interpretations of The Last Supper: Castagno's version of 1447, Leonardo's of about 1498, and Tintoretto's startling vision of about 1594....

32 min