What Style of Art Did Michelangelo Use?

by Rochelle Leggett

"David" is one of Michelangelo's most famous works.

Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images

Michelangelo was an Italian Renaissance artist whose works are still well-known and studied today. He was an accomplished sculptor, creating works like the "Pieta" and "David," and was also a talented painter, most famous for his painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Though he was influenced by the artistic movements at the time, his own works and style in turn influenced later artistic movements.

Renaissance Art

Michelangelo lived during the Renaissance, which was a period in time of revolutionary changes in both society and the arts, starting in and perpetuated by Italy, which was an important site of commerce at the time. The Renaissance lasted from about 1400 to 1600 A.D. The styles during the Renaissance were heavily influenced by Classical works of art from Greek and Roman times and focused on realism. Perspective, depth, soft figures and a wide range of facial expressions and poses were all characteristic of this period.

High Renaissance

The Renaissance period of art is divided into three movements: Early Renaissance, High Renaissance and Late Renaissance. Michelangelo lived during the High Renaissance, along with other well-known artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Titian. The High Renaissance lasted from about 1490 to 1527. While this movement focused on realism as well, beauty, aesthetics, drama and compositional harmony, balance and presence were all considered to be more important than achieving perfect realism. The ideal was more important than the real, an aspect of High Renaissance art that was embraced by Michelangelo in his own personal style of art.

Michelangelo's Style

Michelangelo was a sculptor, painter, architect and poet, but he considered the human form to be the ideal in art, and his most well-known works are those depicting humans, often nudes. He is noted not only for his skill in art, but for his style. Michelangelo preferred drawing humans in very complex, exaggerated poses. He also often idealized the human form, changing realistic or natural proportions to be more beautiful or perfect.


Michelangelo's work had a direct influence on the later style of Mannerism. Mannerism was an artistic movement occurring between 1520 and 1600 in Italy. While compositions in Renaissance art were heavily concerned with balance and form, Mannerist art favored compositions that were unstable and unbalanced. While the style was fairly realistic, artists favored complex and exaggerated poses, sometimes distorting figures to create drama and emotion as well as to idealize the human form, much as Michelangelo did with his figures.

Photo Credits

  • Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images