The concept of humanism developed during the Renaissance, or "rebirth" period. Humanism and the Renaissance are an era of transition between the Middle Ages and the modern age. During the Renaissance, people became less "God Centered" and more "Human-Centered." In previous history, art was used by the church to educate the illiterate. Even if the church did not commission the artists, they often choose to depict biblical scenes in their work. During the Renaissance, however, humanism changed the art world forever. Renaissance artists were no longer interested in painting biblical scenes and were able to create anything of their artistic will. Artists began using new techniques, such as oil painting and linear perspective. These new techniques enhanced the quality of their works. As humanism became more widespread in Europe, art steadily became more secular or spiritual. Average looking people also entered into the artwork. As people became mindful of their of their individuality, they wanted themselves to be immortalized in art. Artists also made self-portraits or portrayed themselves in the background of their artwork. Steadily, art began to mirror reality more personally.
As humanism spread, artists became more fascinated with the human body. Donatello revived the nude as the subject of art in the Renaissance by creating a life-size statue of David from the Bible. David was depicted as a lanky youth who did not look like a hero. His expression is one of a man proud to have slain a Giant. Donatello also depicted Mary Magdalene as a sorrow, pain struck figure. Her face is one of agony and unhappiness. In general, the artists of this period depicted the human body in a more scientific and natural manner. This adoration of the human body showed the secular spirit of the period. Humanism was a movement that the world greatly needed.
1. Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History Volume Two. Pearson Education Inc., 2005