Brief Biography of a Famous and Influential Artist 10: Sandro Botticelli

Botticelli's Self Portrait


Born: Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Pilipepi (better known as Sandro Botticelli) on an unknown date in Florence, Italy

Died: May 17, 1510 [age 64 or 65] in Florence, Italy

Most Famous Works: La Primavera, The Birth of Venus, and The Adoration of the Magi

Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Florentine School during the Early Renaissance movement.

Botticelli's The Adoration of the Magi

Details of Botticelli’s life are sparse, but we know that he became an apprentice when he was about fourteen years old, which would indicate that he received a fuller education than did other Renaissance artists. He was born in the city of Florence in a house in the Via Nueva, Borg’ Ognissanti. Vasari reported that he was initially trained as a goldsmith by his brother Antonio.

In one of his earliest works, “La Primavera,” Botticelli created a mythological scene on a panel over 6 feet high. For this work and the “Birth of Venus,” Botticelli is credited as one of the first painters to make mythological paintings on a large-scale since the Classical era. Most artwork of this size was previously completed in the 15th century for private residences by Flemish and French tapestry makers at a higher cost.

In “La Primavera” (c. 1482), Botticelli shows a considerable cast of characters from mythology. The human figures are

La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

floating, and their pale skin and golden-haired faces give them an angelic quality. Botticelli’s human figures have even been termed “Gothic” even though he was a true Renaissance man with a respect for Greco-Roman antiquity. The characters in “La Primavera” include Cupid, Venus, Mercury, three Graces, Flora, Chloris, and Zephyr.

The “Birth of Venus” (c. 1484-1486) is Botticelli’s other signature work. This time Venus is displayed in the nude. Her form is an adult woman true to the belief that she was born in a womanly body. Her long, golden hair flows down around the left side of her body to cover her delicate femininity. In a wind of roses, Zephyr and Chloris deliver her to her attendant. The change in setting from the first painting to the second painting is from the beautiful forest to the calm seashore.

Botticelli's The Birth of Venus

Botticelli also produced other paintings, including portraits and Christian themes. Two notable Catholic paintings are “Saint Sebastian” and “Adoration of the Magi.” From the artist we get the modern reference to “Botticelli’s angels.” Many believe that Botticelli was the most gifted painter of angels in the Renaissance.

Brief Biography of a Famous and Influential Artist 9: Rembrandt

Rembrandt's Self Portrait

REMBRANDT (1606-1669)

Born: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn on July 15, 1606 in Leiden, Dutch Republic (current-day Netherlands)

Died: October 6, 1669 [age 63] in Amsterdam, Dutch Republic (current-day Netherlands)

Most Notable Works: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Danae, Jacob de Gheyn III, Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, Belshazzar’s Feast, and Night Watch

Rembrandt was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European history and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.

”]Rembrandt was the ninth child born to Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn (father) and Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck (mother). His family was quite well-to-do; his father was a miller and his mother was a baker’s daughter. As a boy he attended Latin school and was enrolled at the University of Leiden, although according to a contemporary he had a greater inclination towards painting; he was soon apprenticed to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, with whom he spent three years. After a brief but important apprenticeship of six months with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden in 1624 or 1625, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.

In his life, Rembrandt also completed several of his own self-portraits, including a 1630 etching of himself wearing a cap with eyes spread wide open and a 1661 portrait of himself as an aging man with grayish white curls. Portraits were an important component of Rembrandt’s career.

The period in which Rembrandt painted included particular attention to special events from history and from

Rembrandt's Belshazzar's Feast

contemporary life. In Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee (1634), he depicts a violent sea in a traditional Bible scene. In The Abduction of Europa (1632), he vividly portrays a Phoenician woman being abducted from a forested beach. Although a two-dimensional landscape or scene is static (like a still-life), Rembrandt manages to convey motion and action.

In Night Watch (1642), the artist captures a portrait of the armed militia in Amsterdam, but the faces of the guards are lit up as if it is not really depicting night. This painting also shows several qualities hallmarking his style. First, Rembrandt has a keen grasp of depth. On the canvas, there are several rows of people between the foreground and the background. Another aspect of his talent for realism is in the details. The observer can observe up close or far away the intricate details of human faces, clothing, tools, animals, drapery, and inanimate objects. The whole piece demonstrates a purposeful composition and a sense of balance between the figures.

Rembrandt's Night Watch Painting

Rembrandt also painted during a time when the Netherlands was breaking from the European tradition of painting on commission. Wilkins et al note that the Netherlands included a free market for artists to sell their own self-selected projects. The Rembrandt style was copied by many artists that came later, and some works attributed to him have also since been credited to a different artist. Rembrandt is remembered as a forerunner of the art movement called Romanticism.

In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam’s Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilization.”

Brief Biography of a Famous and Influential Artist 8: Raphael

Portrait of Raphael

Raphael's Self Portrait Sketch as a Teen

RAPHAEL (1483-1520)

Born: Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino on April 6, 1483 in Urbino, Marche, Italy

Died: April 6, 1520 [age 37] in Rome, Italy

Most Famous Works: The School of Athens, Christ Supported by Two Angels, and The Parnassus

Raphael was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance movement who was celebrated for the perfection and grace of his drawings and paintings. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters from that period.

Raphael's The School of Athens

Raphael was born in the small but artistically significant Central Italian city of Urbino in the Marche region, where his father Giovanni Santi was court painter to the Duke. His mother Màgia died in 1491 when Raphael was eight, followed on August 1, 1494 by his father, who had already remarried. Orphaned at eleven, Raphael’s formal guardian became his only paternal uncle Bartolomeo, a priest, who subsequently engaged in litigation with his stepmother. He probably continued to live with his stepmother when not living as an apprentice with a master. He had already shown talent, according to Giorgio Vasari, who tells that Raphael had been “a great help to his father”. A brilliant self-portrait drawing from his teenage years shows his precocious talent. His father’s workshop continued and, probably together with his stepmother, Raphael evidently played a part in managing it from a very early age.

After receiving early instruction from his father, the painter Giovanni Santi, Rafael continued the family tradition. One of his earliest works was the Crucified Christ with the Virgin Mary, Saints, and Angels (c. 1502-1503), now in the National Gallery of London. This work is noted for beautiful symmetry (with the Cross at the center) and medieval elements (the human faces of the sun and the moon on either side of the Cross’s highest point). Raphael was chosen for other important works for popes and wealthy art patrons.

In his short life, Raphael spent years in Umbria and Florence and an important period in Rome working for two popes.

Christ Supported by Two Angels by Raphael Sanzio

 Under Pope Julius II, several important works were completed in the Vatican, including his own private library in the Apostolic Palace. Julius’ library includes two surviving frescoes by Raphael—Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (c.1508-1509) and School of Athens. These works show two key aspects of the Renaissance. In Disputation, Raphael portrays the important body of the Catholic Church in Heaven and on Earth.

On the opposite wall, the School of Athens includes the giants of philosophy, Plato and Aristotle, in a traditional Greek setting. This fresco also depicts the Renaissance humanist fascination with Classical philosophy, including the principles of truth and reason and the Pope’s library themes of poetry, law, philosophy, and theology. When Julius died, he was followed by Pope Leo X, who changed the purpose of the private library to a study where he could officially sign papal documents. The study was then referred to as the Stanza della Segnatura.

Raphael’s premature death on Good Friday (April 6, 1520) (his 37th birthday), was caused by a night of excessive love-making with Margherita Luti, his mistress, after which he fell into a fever and, not telling his doctors that this was its cause, was given the wrong cure, which killed him. Vasari also says that Raphael had also been born on a Good Friday, which in 1483 fell on March 28.

Raphael's The Parnassus

Whatever the cause, in his acute illness, which lasted fifteen days, Raphael was composed enough to receive the last rites, and to put his affairs in order. He dictated his will, in which he left sufficient funds for his mistress’s care, entrusted to his loyal servant Baviera, and left most of his studio contents to Giulio Romano and Penni. At his request, Raphael was buried in the Pantheon. His funeral was extremely grand, attended by large crowds. The inscription in his marble sarcophagus, an elegiac distich written by Pietro Bembo, reads: “Ille hic est Raffael, timuit quo sospite vinci, rerum magna parens et moriente mori.” Meaning: “Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die.”

Brief Biography of a Famous and Influential Artist 7: Pablo Picasso

Photograph of the Artist: Pablo Picasso

PICASSO (1881-1973)

Born: Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso better known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso on October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain

Died: April 8, 1973 [age 91] in Mougins, France

Most Notable Works: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Guernica, Friendship, and The Weeping Woman

Pablo Picasso was a Spanish painter, draughtsman, and sculptor who lived most of his adult life in France. He is best known for co-founding the Cubanist movement, and for a wide variety of styles that he helped develop and worked on.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso

Pablo Picasso was baptized Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, a series of names that honored saints and family members. Born in the city of Málaga in the Andalusian region of Spain, he was the first child of Don José Ruiz y Blasco (1838–1913) and María Picasso y López. Picasso’s family was middle-class. His father was a painter who specialized in naturalistic depictions of birds and other game. For most of his life Ruiz was a professor of art at the School of Crafts and a curator of a local museum.

Picasso showed a passion and a skill for drawing from an early age. According to his mother, his first words were “piz, piz”, a shortening of lápiz, the Spanish word for ‘pencil’. From the age of seven, Picasso received formal artistic training from his father in figure drawing and oil painting. Ruiz was a traditional, academic artist and instructor who believed that proper training required disciplined copying of the masters, and drawing the human body from plaster casts and live models.

By the age of 13, Picasso was studying in Barcelona’s School of Fine Arts. When he transferred to Madrid’s Academy of

Picasso's Guernica

San Fernando at age 16, he did not stay long. Picasso moved to Paris in 1900. He shared an apartment with a writer and lived in poverty while painting furiously. Some of his early works were portraits for the Stein family, art collectors from America. By the time he painted the portrait of Daniel Stein in 1910, the Cubist style could be seen in his work.

While in Paris, Picasso became friends with a French painter, Georges Braque. Together, they established a new style of art called Cubism. In the early Cubist paintings of both artists, observers can see elements of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism even as they revolutionize compositions with geometric concepts to give volume and depth to figures and abandon traditional perspective.

In the first Cubist painting, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907), Wilkins et al describe Picasso’s influence by Cezanne’s geometric concepts when he transformed a series of nudist paintings into the final result. “The preliminary study for the painting was in a less revolutionary style and showed two clothed male figures juxtaposed with five female prostitutes…” The final product was provocative; one woman’s female parts even face the observer head on. Three of the women also wear African masks. This painting is beautiful, angry, sexy, and puzzling all at once.

Pablo Picasso's Painting: Friendship

The Cubist style was copied by many artists of the early 1900s and found over several decades in Picasso’s work. For example, the great Surrealist, Salvador Dali, got to know Picasso personally and included Cubist themes in some pictures. Picasso is frequently associated with a mural painted in 1937 called Guernica (1937). He produced this work for the elected Republican government of Spain. This painting shows the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

Pablo Picasso was married twice, to Olga Khokhlova and to Jacqueline Roque. He also had multiple relationships with mistresses during his marriages to both women. Picasso had four children with three different women, Paul “Paulo” Joseph Picasso  (February 4, 1921 – June 5, 1975) with Olga Khokhlova, Maria “Maya” de la Concepcion Picasso (September 5, 1935 – ) with Marie-Thérèse Walter, Claude Pierre Pablo Picasso (May 15, 1947 –) & Anne Paloma Picasso, known simply as Paloma (April 19, 1949 – ) with Françoise Gilot.

Pablo Picasso died in Mougins, France, while he and his wife Jacqueline entertained friends for dinner. His final words

The Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso

were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.” He was interred at the Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and occupied with Jacqueline between 1959 and 1962. Overwhelmed with grief and loneliness, Picasso’s wife, Jacqueline, took her own life in 1986 when she was 60 years old.

Picasso demonstrated uncanny artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence; during the first decade of the 20th century his style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas. His revolutionary artistic accomplishments brought him universal renown and immense fortune throughout his life, making him one of the best-known figures in 20th century art.

Brief Biography of a Famous and Influential Artist 6: Donatello

Sketch of the Bust of Donatello

DONATELLO (1386-1466)

Born: Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi on 1386 in Florence, Italy

Died: December 13, 1466 [age 80] in Florence, Italy

Most Famous Works: St. George, David, and the Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata

Donatello was an Early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence.

Donatello was the son of Niccolo di Betto Bardi, a member of the Florentine Wool Combers Guild and Donatello’s mother is unknown. Donatello was educated in the house of the Martelli family and he received his artistic training in a goldsmith’s workshop, then worked briefly in the studio of Lorenzo Ghiberti.

In Florence, Donatello assisted Lorenzo Ghiberti with the statues of prophets for the north door of the Florence

David by Donatello

Baptistery, for which he received payment in November 1406 and early 1408. In 1409–1411 he executed the colossal seated figure of Saint John the Evangelist, which until 1588 occupied a niche of the old cathedral facade, and is now placed in a dark chapel of the Duomo. This work marks a decisive step forward from late Gothic Mannerism in the search for naturalism and the rendering of human feelings. The face, the shoulders and the bust are still idealized, while the hands and the fold of cloth over the legs are more realistic.

During the early Renaissance, works of art, architecture, and sculpture were paid for in part by newly rich, middle class families gaining power in Italian cities. For example, the Medici family rose to power in Florence and contributed two Popes in the Renaissance period. Many of Donatello’s works were financed by commissions from families like the Medici clan.

Donatello's St. George Statue

Two of Donatello’s early works were statues of St. Mark and St. George finished around 1413. St. Mark is a statue occupying one of two niches outside the Orsanmichele church in Florence. The other statue is St. George, which was eventually replaced by a copy in the Orsanmichele church. The original of St. George now resides in Italy’s Museo Nazionale de Barge. Donatello also completed a statue of St. Louis of Toulouse for the same church.

Around 1430, Cosimo de’ Medici, the foremost art patron of his era, commissioned from Donatello the bronze David (now in the Bargello) for the court of his Palazzo Medici. This is now Donatello’s most famous work. At the time of its creation, it was the first known free-standing nude statue produced since ancient times. Conceived fully in the round, independent of any architectural surroundings, and largely representing an allegory of the civic virtues triumphing over brutality and irrationality, it was the first major work of Renaissance sculpture.

In 1443, Donatello was called to Padua by the heirs of the famous condottiero Erasmo da Narni, who had died that

Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata

year. Completed in 1450 and placed in the square facing the Basilica of St. Anthony, his equestrian statue of Erasmo (also known as the Gattamelata, or “Honey-Cat”) was the first example of such a monument since ancient times. (Other equestrian statues, from the 14th century, had not been executed in bronze and had been placed over tombs rather than erected independently, in a public place.) This work became the prototype for other equestrian monuments executed in Italy and Europe in the following centuries.

For the Basilica of St. Anthony, Donatello created, most famously, the bronze Crucifix of 1444–1447 and additional statues for the choir, including a Madonna with Child and six saints, constituting a Holy Conversation, which is no longer visible since the renovation by Camillo Boito in 1895.

In his lifetime, Donatello sculpted friezes such as the Lamentation over the Dead Christ in bronze, a Roman Catholic theme more interpretative than sculptures of saints or dead Popes. The principal work for this project was completed by his assistant, Bertoldo di Giovanni (c. 1430-1491). Donatello died in Florence in 1466 of natural causes. In all of his works, the artist demonstrated how he could sculpt just about anything and achieve the effects of realism and emotion.

Creatively Designed and Personalized T-Shirt Project


Finished Product of Handmade T-shirts.


Kids can create their own spring fashion lines by using shoe treads to stamp colorful designs onto their tees.


Example of T-Shirt Making Process

  • T-shirt
  • Con-Tact paper
  • Cardboard
  • Cosmetic wedges or sponge pieces
  • Fabric paint


  1. Create a template from a piece of Con-Tact paper. (Draw your own free-form design or download one.)
  2. Insert a piece of cardboard between the shirt layers to keep the paint from bleeding through. Remove the paper backing from the template and press it onto

    2nd Example of T-Shirt Process

    the shirt.

  3. Using cosmetic wedges or sponge pieces, dab fabric paint onto a clean shoe tread. Practice printing on a piece of paper, then gently press the paint-covered tread onto the shirt, adding more paint and repeating as needed.
  4. When you are finished painting, wash the bottom of the shoe immediately with soap and water. Let the shirt dry completely before peeling off the template, then wash the shirt according to the paint manufacturer’s instructions.

Source of Project:

Colorful Spring Driveway Signs Project


Driveway Sign Samples


What you see is not all you get with these adorable driveway markers. By day, the plaques add color and a decorative touch to your yard. At night, the signs shine as beams of approaching headlights bounce off the reflective-tape moon and stars.


  • Pencil
  • Wood (we used scrap lumber, but you can also use wooden plaques from a craft store)
  • Paintbrush
  • Acrylic paints
  • Scissors
  • Reflective tape (Duck brand used)
  • Drill
  • Wooden stakes
  • Screws
  • Twigs
  • Hammer and nails


  1. Download templates for the signs shown here, or create your own design. Lightly trace the pattern on the wood, then paint.
  2. When the paint is dry, cut moon and star shapes from the reflective tape and apply them to the plaque.
  3. Use the drill to make pilot holes in the stake (a parent’s job), then screw the stake to the back of the plaque
  4. To prevent the twigs from splitting, create pilot holes with the drill and a small bit (a parent’s job). Nail the twigs in place. If desired, a parent can instead drill holes in the plaque and insert the twigs, as we did with the owl design.

Source of Project:

Friendship Blossoms Project


Example of Friendship Blossoms


  • Scrapbooking paper or card stock
  • Scissors
  • Lollipops
  • Tape


  1. For each, cut three heart-shaped petals, two leaves, and two flower centers from scrapbooking paper or card stock.
  2. Poke a small hole in each, crease the petals as shown, and slide the pieces onto a lollipop stem. Tape the bottom to secure.


More potential messages:
You’re a sweet heart
Our friendship is blooming
Be my bud-dy

Source of Project:

Multicolored Pop-Up Egg Project



Make your Easter extra festive with this 3-D paper egg. The secret to its look is colorful, accordion-folded paper strips.


  • Card stock
  • Scissors
  • Double-sided tape
  • Embroidery floss


  1. Begin by cutting out three identical egg shapes from card stock (ours are 8 inches tall). Crease the eggs by folding them in half lengthwise and opening them back up.
  2. Cut card stock into strips of varying sizes from 3/4- to 1 1/4-inch wide and 9 to 12 inches long. Accordion-fold the strips so that there’s about one inch between each fold.
  3. Attach the ends of several strips along one edge of an egg using double-sided tape. Trim the strips so that they make a shallow arc across the egg’s width, then secure the other ends in place.
  4. When you’ve covered all three eggs, use double-sided tape to join their backs as shown. Between two of the sections, insert a loop of embroidery floss for hanging. Tip: If the strips sag when you hang the egg, peel them off, shorten them, and reposition them.
Source for Project:

Decorative Tray Project


Decorative Spring Tray

DESCRIPTION – A standard baker’s tray becomes a vibrant decorative piece with this easy how-to.


  • 1 yard decorative fabric
  • Aluminum rimmed baking sheet
  • Spray adhesive
  • Scissors
  • Fabric glue
  • Synthetic felt
  • 1/4-inch-thick acrylic sheet cut to fit inside of tray, with corners rounded

    1. Cut fabric large enough to cover the front and wrap around the back of the baking tray. Cover the front of the tray  with spray adhesive.

    2. Place fabric on tray so pattern is aligned, leaving enough room to wrap fabric around all sides to the back. Smooth fabric onto tray, pressing out any bubbles.

    3. Pull any extra material into corner and push around the edge. Turn tray over. Cover the back of the tray with spray adhesive.

    4. Press the fabric over two edges of the tray first, then fold in on each remaining side, as if wrapping a gift. Trim any excess fabric with scissors. Use fabric glue to secure, if needed.

    5. Cut a piece of felt to fit the back of the tray and conceal fabric edges. Smooth felt on the back the tray.

    6. Place acrylic sheet in center of tray.

    Source of Project:

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