Masaccio was the first great painter of the Italian Renaissance, whose innovations in the use of scientific perspective inaugurated the modern era in painting. His work had a profound influence on some of the masters in art history such as Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raffaello.
Despite his brief career, Masaccio profoundly influenced the art of painting in the Renaissance. He was one of the first to use scientific perspective in his painting: according to Vasari, all Florentine painters studied his frescoes extensively to "learn the precepts and rules for painting well". He changed the direction of Italian painting, moving it away from the Gothic style and elaborates ornamentation of artists like Gentile da Fabriano to a more naturalistic mode which employed perspective for greater realism.
Masaccio was born to Giovanni di Mone Cassai and Jacopa di Martinozzo in San Giovanni Valdarno. His father was a notary and died in 1406, when Tommaso was only five. The mother remarried and family moved to Florence 1417, where Tommaso joined one of the seven main craft's guilds in Florence, 1422. The source of the young master's education remains an enigma. It is still not known where Massaccio received his training in art.
The first works attributed to Masaccio are the "Cascia Altarpiece", (1422), picturing the Madonna enthroned with angels and saints. Masaccio's brief six- or seven-year career reached its height in his collaboration with a painter known as Masolino da Panicale on the fresco decoration of the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. The chapel was originally dedicated to Saint Peter, and most frescoes illustrate events in St. Peter's life. The most innovative painting is the "Tribute Money", rendered in a continuous narrative of three scenes within one setting. It is particularly remarkable for its integration of figures, architecture, and landscape into a consistent whole. To create this illusion Masaccio used linear perspective in the depiction of the house and in positioning figures.
The "Virgin and Child with St. Anne", (ca. 1424) at the Uffizi, was also collaboration with Masolino. Masaccio's talent was apparent, and was probably already superior to that of Masolino.
Through the help of Brunelleschi, in 1427 Masaccio won a prestigious commission to produce a "Holy Trinity" for the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. The fresco, considered by many his masterwork, marks the first use of systematic linear perspective, possibly devised by Masaccio with the assistance of Brunelleschi himself.
Masaccio died at the end of 1428. According to a legend, he was poisoned by a jealous rival painter. Only four frescoes undoubtedly from Masaccio's hand still exist today, although many other works have been at least partially attributed to him. Others are believed to have been destroyed.