It was Masaccio, the youngest of all painters who were young before during and after him who, in his few youthful years, worked the miracle of awakening in painting, breathing life into it at last real and earthy, an urgency it had never had before."(Libero de Liberi).
Masaccio was attracted to the things of art from a very young age. Already in Valdarno, where he spent his childhood and youth and where several minor painters were at work, he was able to refine his innate artistic and pictorial sensibility.
But it was Florence that influenced and shaped Masaccio's artistic personality. In fact, thanks above all to the work of Brunelleschi and Donatello, in the early years of the fifteenth century there was already an artistic and cultural revolution in progress in Florence where Masaccio moved at the age of 16. This changed much in the way that the architectural and sculptural arts were intended and realised. Masaccio chose the two most important artists present in Florence as his reference points because of the artistic affinity he shared. These two great artists were later to become his great friends and admirers.
Masaccio was impressed by the beautiful new works of architecture and sculpture being created in Florence at the time. It is, in fact, to this period that the greatest Florentine architectural buildings belong, buildings like the Duomo, the Baptistry, the churches of Orsanmichele, Santa Croce, and Santa Maria Novella.
Masaccio's extraordinary personality explodes in his later works, first in those with Masolino and then independently in the frescoes of the Cappella Brancacci in the Chiesa del Carmine in Florence (1424-1425). We can consider these works to be the true beginning of renaissance painting. Here Masaccio concentrated the basis of his naturalistic revolution: space seen through the laws of perspective, light and shade to bring bodies into relief, and his deep emotive intensity.
Among others we should remember: Il Tributo, San Pietro che risana gli infermi, Il Battesimo dei neofiti, La Cacciata dei Progenitori dal Paradiso, this last mentioned is so drammatically realistic and so far from Masolino's late gothic style that it stands apart. Even though a sinner Man has not lost his dignity in Masaccio's painting, he is neither degraded nor brutish, the beauty of the human body as well as innovatory expressions recall archetype classical beauty, but here there is something more, Masaccio's Eve is different from any chaste Graeco-Roman Venus, her heavy body seems to bear not only the weight of her own sin but also all the sins of humanity and on her face we read the anguish of the world. Of special importance is the fresco illustrating Il pagamento del Tributo, which brings together, in the same scene, various moments in time from the gospel story, bestowing, by means of an absolutely revolutionary action, an importance and dignity on the single man portrayed by the side of a Christ with human features. This revolutionary conception represents "Man" and "God" on the same plane, making Christ himself a man among men, and again a suffering man in the Crocifissione (1426).
Also dating from 1426 is Il Polittico di Pisa in the Chiesa dei Carmelitani. Unfortunately this structure has been dismantled and panels are to be found in various museums around the world. Here the images are devoid of even the tiniest decoration and are totally concentrated on the event represented.
The fresco La Trinità in the Florentine church of Santa Maria Novella dates back to 1426-1427.