During the Early renaissance, painting rose to a position of primacy amongst its fellow disciplines for the first time in the history of Western art. A new relationship was born between the work of art and the spectator: the painting no longer sought merely to fulfill a function, but issued its own challenge to the person before it.
Amongst the great innovations of this new era were the exploration of perspective and proportion, a new understanding of portraiture as the likeness of an individual, and the beginnings of landscape painting.
Artists increasingly trod a path away from superficial “naturalness” in their works and towards a more profound understanding of the natural word, a trend seen in Italy in Masaccio, Uccello, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli and Mategna and in Germany in Multscher and Witz. In the Netherlands, meanwhile, panel painting flowered at the hands of the van Eyck brothers, Rogier van der Weyden, Hugo van der Goes, Memling, and in the mysterious spectral world of Hieronymus Bosch.
In Venice in the late 15th century, Antonello de Messina and Giovanni Bellini in particular spearheaded a revolution in painting whose impact would reverberate beyond the High Renaissance and into the 16th century.