30 Times People Snapped A Pic And Realized It Was “Accidental Renaissance” (New Pics)
Once in a while, time, light, and space conspire to bridge the gap between the present and the past. In those moments, modern photos snapped with handheld computers come to look like accidental renaissance paintings created by the old masters. Fortunately, there is a subreddit called /r/AccidentalRenaissance where anyone in the world can share their magnificent digital paintings.
Strictly speaking, not every photo on this list echoes the renaissance, but every single one is clearly more than just a quick digital snap of everyday life. Some look like impressionist paintings, while others might echo baroque or neoclassical motifs. The fact that these photos speak to us so distinctly tells us just how indelible the visual identity of these historical art styles actually is.
We highly recommend following the subreddit yourself so you can see others’ submissions and even submit your own. Who knows? Maybe becoming a member will inspire you to look for perfect lighting and take a new perspective on your off-hand digital snaps of daily life.
If you start looking for “renaissance shots” to take, however, that does raise the question of what an accidental renaissance scene might actually look like in everyday life - and what a scene might look like in any other art style, for that matter. Understanding some of their key visual elements may help you keep an eye out for them! Each style is inextricably linked to the social, political, and cultural context of its times, but we’ll try to stick to the visuals. Let’s begin!
The Renaissance was nothing short of a revolution in European painting, so the changes between it and olde medieval styles are many. Perhaps the single concept best capturing the Renaissance style is chairoscuro - the use of bold contrasts between light and dark to build a sense of depth. The mysterious background shadows and the pronounced folds of robes or tapestries that we might associate with Renaissance paintings are all a part of the Renaissance trend of using strong differences in light to reinforce a sense of space and depth in flat paintings.
Other changes included the use of linear perspective, a greater sense of realism borrowed from ancient Mediterranean works, and the study of anatomy, light, and realism.
Ice Skating At Kinderdijk, Netherlands
The Renaissance art style gave way to mannerism and then to the Baroque period. Given their relationship, some of the things we associate with “accidental renaissance” paintings may actually be elements of Baroque paintings instead.
The Baroque period built on and borrowed from the Renaissance period but had a few key visual elements that set it apart. One was an increased focus on “liveliness” as opposed to the relatively static scenes favored during the Renaissance period. In the Baroque period, we see many scenes of people seeming to have been captured while moving or speaking - a common theme in “accidental renaissance” photos. Another element is tenebrism, which built on the Renaissance concept of chiaroscuro. Tenebrism was a focus on using composition in the dark spaces of a painting to give it a shadowy and mysterious look.
Just Like That
The Baroque period and the Rococo period that followed it were, in quite a literal sense, like night and day! Gone is the gloom and the seriousness. Rococo paintings introduced livelier pastel colors, brighter light, and naturalistic themes.
Other key focuses in the Rococo period included a focus on detail and playful subject matter. Throughout Europe, these two themes were often used to portray the aristocracy at play - enjoying themselves while beautifully dressed and surrounded by flowers.
The Neoclassical period did exactly what it said on the tin - it was a new rebirth of classical themes and motifs from an earlier time. As a reaction to the decadence of the Rococo period, it brought back darker backgrounds and shadows. Artists also showed a renewed interest in studying anatomy and applying that knowledge in their work.
Another key element was a focus on didactic art, which means that it was meant to convey a message, moral or story. Artists started to focus again on religious stories and ancient myths, recreating key scenes and including symbolic elements.
Paintings from the Romantic period don’t necessarily focus on love, but they do incorporate emotion in a big way. The Romantic period was a departure from the rationalism of previous movements, embracing epic natural vistas, passionate subjects, and moody lighting.
The Romantic period introduces a focus on portraying action. Artists in this period started to paint outdoors more often to capture epic seaside sunsets, thunderstorms, or windy, sunlit days. Their paintings sought to inspire emotional responses and sometimes departured from strictly accurate depictions of the subject matter to do so.
Realist paintings were both more and less realistic than paintings from the movements that preceded it. The period is characterized by a lesser focus on achieving photo-realistic reproductions of the subjects and more on faithfully documenting the real world the artists lived in. This meant avoiding excessively dramatic lighting and symbolic inclusions and a greater focus on depicting every layer of humanity - not just aristocrats or other important people.
In a way, this period’s change of subject matter also lends itself to the “accidental renaissance” trend. Any picture of everyday life you take that looks like a painting might be a realist work of art if it lacks any of the distinctive elements of light and posing that might put it in one of the other movements on this list.
Violinist Playing During Her Own Brain Surgery
Impressionism was the first big step away from realism in art. Some key works in the impressionist movement are immediately recognizable due to their use of pointillism or other brushstroke methods that depart boldly from any attempt to convey photo-realism. Many paintings focused on conveying emotion, color, and mood.
Interestingly, this offers a very specific niche for “accidental renaissance” photos as well. Photos with elements like bokeh blur or lighting warped by rain can easily resemble impressionist artwork. So can photos that capture distortive effects like fog or heat mirages.
The Nuns And The Hippies
Girl In Verona (May 16, 1918)
A Short, Tall And Biggest Man Play Cards
Note: this post originally had 141 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.