iPad App Review: ArtGenius Italian Renaissance (Universal)
Reviewed by Tong Zhang
Spain-based ArteHistoria specializes in art history and has brought their knowledge to iOS devices with images and text in ArtGenius series of apps. The first installation of the ArtGenius series devotes to Velazquez, the master of the Spanish Baroque period with text and over 150 images. In the second installment, the Italian Renaissance, we start a century or two before the Baroque period and visit Italian's artists and their mostly prominent works that had lasting influence on Western art, architecture, literature and more.
Renaissance movement lasted nearly 3 centuries and spread most of the European countries. Even within the period, there were many influential artistic styles, geo differences, medium differences, and political and religious backdrops. To thoroughly illustrate such period would require a very long and perhaps many volumes of books and graphics. ArtGenius takes a different and simple approach: exploring only the artists that are considered the giants of the renaissance period and their most famous and important works. The giants include Leonardo da Vince, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Tintoretto (II); and even though artists such as Da Vince, Raphael and Michelangelo were also noted scientists and architects, the app focuses on their artworks.
You will get a lengthy bio on each of these artists, though not super long or very detailed, that includes major events happened in their training, commissions and patrons that help shaped their careers. ArtGenius doesn't aim to be an art history book or reference, but a guide to understanding the general landscape of Italian Renaissance period in art. Though you wouldn't use this to do your art history thesis but the app is a great tool if you are visiting museums with Italian Renaissance collections. The app also touches on some major artistic influences of these masters including Luca Cambiaso, Andrea Mantegna and more. The "influencers" of the Renaissance giants don't get as detailed bios as the giants themselves, but you get an idea why their lives and works were important to the movement.
ArtGenius also links the artists' lives to the geo, political and religious backdrops in a easy-to-understand way. It's not hard to understand that without Julius II, Michelangelo might not have painted the Sistine Chapel or without the patrons in royalties and emperors, Titian wouldn't had the opportunities of painting some of his most important portraits after reading the artists bios along looking at the images of their work. ArtGenius does a great job at hyperlinking important information and leaving out the details that might not be for casual art history lovers. The app also links to images that have their own commentary text so that you can connect the artists with their art. The text also gives you a good sense on what came before and after Renaissance period and major influencers of those periods that related to the masters of the Renaissance.
The UI for such a complicated subject is quite simple and easy to use. ArtGenius has digital images of over 210 paintings by the Renaissance masters. These high res images are sharp and colorful, and you can pinch zoom to get even more details. The app includes a permanent menu with shortcut icons to get text for images, bio of the artist and even info on the museum that the art piece is currently housed. The museum page also includes the location, hours, ticket info, phone number, web site and links to Google maps.
There is no in-app music or sound. We wish the app had an audio version of the text which can provide authentic pronunciations of Italian names and places for those who are not familiar with the language.
ArtGenius is a great tool for casual art history lovers or museum goers who want to read up on the Italian Renaissance major artists and their works. The app is well laid out with convenient hyperlinks to text and images, and the UI is easy to use. While the app isn't for the experts or even aficionados of the period, it does give a general sense who are the major players, their main contributions and innovations shown through their paintings, frescos, sculptures and architectures.