The Artistic Genius of Michelangelo

Tina Rivers Ryan – Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo), Formerly Columbia University

A leader of the High Renaissance of the early sixteenth century, Michelangelo Buonarroti was legendary even in his own time for his inventiveness as an artist: Giorgio Vasari, the godfather of art history, wrote that he had been endowed by God with "universal ability in every art and every profession…to the end that the world might choose him and admire him as its highest exemplar in the life, works, saintliness of character, and every action of human creatures, and that he might be acclaimed by us as a being rather divine than human."

In this talk, we will trace the arc of Michelangelo's storied life, from his upbringing by the powerful Medici family, to his glory days as architect and artist to the Popes, and his spiritual re-awakening late in life. Along the way, we will look closely at his paintings and sculptures, including the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Last Judgment, the Pietà, and the David, in order to understand the importance of his unique artistic vision. Through his works, we will come to better understand the man behind the legend–a passionate artist and competitive rival to the likes of Raphael and Bramante–whose outstanding achievements and temperament gave rise to the modern notion of the artistic "genius.”