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Paolo Uccello  

b. 1397 , d. 1475
painter; draftsman; mosaicist

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The most captivating and imaginative painter to have lived since Giotto would certainly have been Paolo Uccello, if only he had spent as much time on human figures and animals as he spent, and wasted, on the finer points of perspective.

Thus biographer Giorgio Vasari summed up the bittersweet life of Paolo Uccello. Uccello stressed the mathematical aspects in his work and tended to overlook the general philosophical or intellectual connotations. Apart from being an imaginative painter, painting figures and drawing animals, he was also a naturalist. He painted most of his work on frescoes and panels. He was a master mosaicist and produced designs for stained glass. His frescoes created a chiaroscuro effect, the technique of using light and shade in pictorial representation, relieved only by subdued local colors. He specialized in this monochrome technique, different from his panels, which used strong, vivid colors.

Paolo di Dono was Uccello's proper name. He was given the nickname Uccello, Italian word for bird, for his love of the winged creatures. But in his final years, Uccello was anything but free and uplifting, as his nickname would suggest. "He came to live a hermit's life, hardly knowing anyone and shut away out of sight in his house for weeks and months at a time," said Vasari, who attributed his huge downfall to his obsession with perspective.

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Madonna & Child / Uccello
Madonna & Child

Italian, 1470-1475