The "Artistic Temperament"If an artist gets angry or behaves somewhat irrationally, we chalk it up to "artistic temperament". Down through art history examples of such a phenomena are almost more common than not. Van Gogh was not the easiest person in the world to get along with, neither were Picasso, El Greco, or Jackson Pollock. But rightly or wrongly, when we think of artistic temperament, the personality of Michelangelo Buonarroti often comes first to mind. He was independent, arrogant, aggressive, competitive and indispensable. He's also said to have had a nasty temper.
Ironically, living and working almost at his sharp elbow was another artist, somewhat younger, whose personality and demeanour was as nearly opposite that of Michelangelo as could be imagined. That artist was Raphael Sanzio. Raphael was born in 1483 and died at the tender age of 37 in 1520, his lifetime almost perfectly coinciding with the High Renaissance in Italy. He was debonair, handsome, pleasant, politically aware (to the point of fawning), and most of all talented--a proverbial "sponge" when it came to soaking up the styles and techniques of the old masters.
Raphael also "soaked up" the style and working technique of his contemporaries as well, a fact that rankled Michelangelo to no end as he struggled with the overwhelming enormity of the Sistine Chapel commission. At the same time, Raphael was working only a dozen or so yards away on simpler, though nonetheless impressive, fresco mural - The School of Athens. This 26'x18' painting is a veritable "who's who" of classical Greek philosophy. Not immodestly, Raphael included a self-portrait amongst the Greek philosophical luminaries. However, in a gesture of sincere respect for the man whose style he was copying even as it was being evolved, he also painted a brooding portrait of Michelangelo placed prominently in the foreground.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
6 December 1997