By Jena Connolly | 16 November, 2015

John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer at Pixar Animations, once said that,

“The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”

Although Lasseter was speaking about the digitalization of the animator within the studio, his quote actually speaks a wider truth about the art industry. Artists are at the frontier of innovation as early adopters of technological advancement, or in their own creation of innovations later adopted by wider society.

In this two part blog we look back over significant moments of art historical innovation starting at the Renaissance and moving forward from there. Art and innovation during the Renaissance were not considered separate entities, rather two complementary elements of man’s understanding of wider society and the universe.

Filippo Brunelleschi (1337-1446) Linear Perspective:

Brunelleschi was a Florentine designer and architect credited with establishing the first widely understood mathematical theory of linear perspective. In 1435 his theories were published by Leon Battista Alberti and made a dramatic impact on society’s understanding of space and artists depiction of depth.

Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) Oil Paint:

The great Renaissance documenter of Artist Lives Giorgio Vasari credited the artist Jan van Eyck with the invention of oil on wood panel painting. It is highly unlikely that this huge innovation was achieved by one man, however Van Eyck’s prowess with the material definitely encouraged and helped proliferate the style’s adoption by other artists of the period.

"The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art."- John Lasseter

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452- 1519) The Aerial Screw:

Discovered as an unrealised project in one of Da Vinci’s famous notebooks, the Aerial Screw is designed similarly to the workings of the modern helicopter.  The blades of this screw design were shaped to generate lift and manipulate air pressure that, once spun fast enough, would lift the design off the ground.  

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) & Etienne Jules Marey (1830-1904)  Motion Capture Photography:

Using multiple, differently timed, cameras Eadweard Muybridge captured the intricacies of each stage of an animal’s movement in stop motion. Etienne Jules Marey worked in parallel to Muybridge, but was based in France rather than in America, and came at the subject of motion capture photography from a scientific background rather than purely photographic. He famously invented the Chronophotographic Gun capable of taking 12 consecutive frames a second.



The arts have sped up a number of innovations we now take for granted and use across a range of disciplines.  If you’re trying to create a tricky project maybe you should take a leaf out of these artists handbooks and get innovating yourself. Part II of this blog will investigate the expansion of this innovation up to today.


Banner Image Source: Stocksnap Free Stock Images, Image by: Olu Eletu

Leave a comment