Paolo Uccello lived from 1396 or 1397 to December 10, 1475 in Florence, Italy. There is very little biographical information about his early life; but we do know that his father was a barber and sugeon. (Historically, it was common to mix these two professions.) His mother was nobility and was born in Florence. Uccello is actually a nickname, which references his love of painting birds (it translates loosely as “Paul of the birds”).

He apprenticed under the master sculpture Ghiberti (whom we studied a few years ago!) You can see Ghibetri’s style of storytelling within a work reflected in Uccello’s art. Uccello’s work falls into the Late Gothic movement. However he emphasized color and pageantry rather than classical realism, which was the focus at the time. He loved painting animals. While the bulk of art at this time was commissioned for the Catholic Church to decorate cathedrals; he did get to create several pieces featuring animals (which he was passionate about) for the Medici family (who were the ruling noble family at the time.) His most notable contribution to art was his passion for perspective. He wrote extensively about vanishing points and foreshortening. At this time in art, size was used to note importance rather than actual physical scale. A fellow artist commented in his journal that Paolo was known to stay up all night looking for the vanishing point in a scene. His work did not always look natural, but had a meticulously calculated, almost draftsman-like feel. He was also a scientist, as many painters were in 1400 and 1500s. He is reported to have said that he wanted to create a scene through scientifically structured space; and “if the scene ended up looking less natural or unrealistic, so much the worse for nature and history.” (this is a disputed quote, but definitely gives a feel for Uccello’s beliefs.

He also was a master of creating multi-figure, elaborate scenes that tell a story. His most famous work was a series of three murals to depict the battle of San Romano. He had a successful career and was sought after for commissions for civic and religious pieces during his lifetime. As he got older and his eyesight failed, he struggled financially, eventually passing away of old-age related ailments around 79 years old. His influence changed art dramatically, especially concerning perspective. Many famous artists were highly influenced by him, including Leonardo DaVinci.

Today we will create our own multifigure works to tell a story.

1. First you need to think about what story you want to tell. Think about how you can show what happened in one scene.

2. Take a look at the picture with the perspective lines drawn in. Show the students the vanishing point and explain how you can show that things are farther away by drawing them smaller as the get closer to the vanishing point.

**For third grade and above, include step 3. For younger students, omit the perspective work.**
3. Ask the students to pick a horizon line (where the sky meets the ground) and lightly draw it on the paper. Choose where you want the vanishing point to be and make a little dot there. Any larger structures, roads, etc. will get smaller as they go back to the horizon line. You can easily find which way to show the receding sides of a structure, by lightly drawing in those lines with a ruler. (See the video for a better explanation of this.) ie. The receding sides of a house will fall within the ruler lines.

4. Use the colored to put in the details of the scene, then use the chalk over the top to fill in larger areas and create highlights and shadows where desired.