In 1236 the works of the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi began, and renowned artists came from different regions, among them Giunta Pisano, Cimabue from Florence, Giotto from Rome, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti from Siena. Thanks to them, and their followers, Umbria became part of the history of Italian painting. Giotto, with the frescos of upper basilica of Assisi, inaugurated a new pictorial language. The Sienese school prevailed on the others and dominated Umbrian artistic life until the middle of the 15th century.
With the arrival in Umbria of the greatest Florentine masters of the 15th century and as their innovations in painting became widespread, for the local artists a true renewal began: at this point it is possible to talk about a truly Umbrian painting. In Foligno, on the wake of Benozzo, a school of painters started, among whom Nicolò di Liberatore, nicknamed "Alunno", and Pier Antonio Mezzastris. For about two generations, from the second half of the 15th century till the death of Perugino (1523), Perugia became the artistic capital of all Umbria.
The most interesting painters of the first generation were Benedetto Bonfili and Bartolomeo Caporali, followers of Benozzo; they painted many processional standards for the brotherhoods of the city and the countryside.
To the second generation belonged the two greatest masters of Umbria: Pietro Perugino from Cittù
della Pieve and Bernardino Pinturicchio, native of Perugia. Perugino is an unequalled lyricist that treated the ecstasy of the characters and the perspective of the typical Umbrian landscape. The Pinturicchio was a skilled narrator and a fanciful decorator. Numerous followers of these two painters, whose names are often unknown, left artistic works of great value throughout the region.
Luca Signorelli, born in Cortona, Tuscany, along the borders with Umbria, spent part of his youth near the Perugino; he painted the frescoes of the Orvieto cathedral, one of the masterpieces of Italian art. Also Raphael, native of Urbino, studied at the school of Perugino and Pinturicchio. With the death of Perugino, Umbrian painting came to an end; his followers abandoned him while he was still alive, attracted by the new style of Michel Angelo and Raphael.
Umbrian painting occupies a privileged place in the history of art of the rich Italian Renaissance. The first important examples of the pictorial activity of this region can be found from the end of the 12th up to the early 13th century in Foligno, Spoleto, in the abbey of San Pietro in Valle, Ferentillo (near Perugia).
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