Gothic Art

Gothic art emerged during the Medieval Gothic period, which lasted for more than 200 years.

It began with the architectural achievements of the 12th century as Europe was trying to move beyond the Dark ages into an era of confidence, radiance, and prosperity.

Medieval illuminated manuscripts

It was supplemented by the solidification of Christianity when new cathedrals and churches were being built in Northern France (Chartres, Amiens, and Reims).

Unlike the forms of art that preceded it, Gothic art was characterized by an increase in naturalistic features. Naturalism, which was commonly used by Italian artists during the 13th century later on became the dominant painting style on the continent.

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Origins of Gothic Art

Gothic art was a style of medieval art, it emerged in Northern France and it preceded Romanesque art in the early 12th century. However, it later spread to other parts of Western Europe rapidly.

It was largely facilitated by the concurrent growth of Gothic architecture.

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In the early 14th century Gothic art developed and continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In most areas, particularly Germany, Gothic art continued into the 16th century and later subsumed into Renaissance art.

The easily noticeable changes in architecture from Romanesque to Gothic, and vice-versa are usually used to describe the periods in art in all media.

Medieval Illuminated manuscript

Example of a medieval illuminated manuscript

Definition of Gothic Art

Gothic Art is a Medieval Art Movement that emerged when Europe was going through a fundamental transition from the period commonly referred to as the ‘Dark Ages to the ‘Middle Ages.’ People were innovating new cultures and lifestyles with each passing day.

The Dark Ages1

Gothic art developed from around 1120 AD to around 1515 AD. Due to its creative and unique style over several years, Gothic Art is categorized into three distinct ages, namely Early, High, and Late Gothic. Since the begging of this form of art, it has greatly impacted the forms and styles of art that followed it.

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Early Gothic Art

During the early Gothic period, Christianity was on its evolving stage, art was therefore created to explain and enhance religion. Due to the high levels of illiteracy, paintings and sculptures were used as tools for teaching and promoting Christianity.

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The changes in art were evident in most early Gothic Art through the outstanding Gothic Cathedrals built all over Europe. 1140 became the outset of Early Gothic art on the walls of the “Basilica of St. Denis,” Paris.

Then it was followed by “Chartres Cathedral” of Paris in 1145.

The most famous artistic cathedrals were located in Northern France in the cities of “Amiens” and “Reims.” Early Gothic Architecture followed the style of tall and light buildings, flying buttresses, pointed arches, and glazed windows.

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Late Gothic Art

During the late 14th century, the blending of Italian and Northern European art led to the strengthening of the International Gothic Style.

Throughout this period, most artists from France and Italy traveled across Europe dispersing artistic ideas in Italy, France, Germany, England, Bohemia, and Austria.

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This style of art had a courtly, noble zest, filled with Flemish anxiety for naturalistic ideas. Unlike the components that made up Early Gothic Art, this developed style had a distinctive unified look.

Another strong important factor during this period that greatly influenced art was the Black Death. This horrifying illness emerged in Europe during the time of the International Gothic Style and killed about one-third of the population.

Black Death in Medieval Times

Famous Gothic Art

The Medieval era of the late Middle Ages saw the development of Gothic Art and major improvements in art skills during Medieval Times. During this era, most artists broke away from the inspirations of Romanesque art and Byzantine Art styles.

Medieval Gothic Art Glass

Stained Glass Gothic Art Window

By the 14th century, Gothic art had advanced towards a more natural and secular style referred to as International Gothic.

Gothic artists were the founders of the movement that aimed toward greater realism which ended in the Renaissance art style. Gothic art was mainly practiced in four primary types which include:

  • Stained glass
  • Manuscript illumination
  • Frescos
  • Panel paintings

Famous Gothic Artists

  • Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes 13th Century Italian
  • Benedetto Antelami – Sculptor, 1178–1196
  • Bonaventura Berlinghieri – Painter, 1215–1242
  • Nicola Pisano – Sculptor, 1220–1284
  • Guido Bigarelli – Sculptor, 1238–1257
  • Duccio di Buoninsegna – Painter, 1255–1318
  • Lorenzo Maitani – Architect, 1255–1330
  • Arnolfo di Cambio – Sculptor, 1264–1302
  • Master of San Francesco Bardi – Painter, 14th Century
  • Ferrer Bassa – Spanish Painter, 1285–1348
  • Simone Martini – Painter, 1285–1344
  • Evrard d’Orleans – French Sculptor, 1292–1357
  • Andrea Pisano – Sculptor, 1295–1348
  • Jacopo del Casentino – Painter, 1297–1358
  • Segna di Buonaventure – Painter, 1298–1331

Gothic Art Paintings

Medieval Gothic Art paintings were rare until the 12th century, or about fifty years after Gothic sculptures and architecture emerged.

The transition to Gothic from Romanesque is by some means indefinite, Gothic painting is often presented before a lot of changes are noticed in the compositions and figures themselves.

Figures then become more animated in facial expression and pose, and tend to be reasonably small in relation to the background of the scenes in the paintings.

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History of Gothic Art

The revolution of Gothic Art occurred in Germany (around 1220), France and England (around 1200), and Italy (around 1300). During this period, frescos, sculpture, manuscript illumination, panel paintings, and stained glass painting were the main forms of art having both secular and Christian essence.

The term Gothic was created by classifying Italian writers of the Renaissance, who associated the invention, medieval art, and architecture with the Gothic tribe that had conquered the Romans in the 5th century. Though modern scholars have realized that the Goths had nothing to do with Gothic art, the name has remained to refer to it.

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The decline of Gothic Art

After the emergence and dominance of Gothic art from the 12th century through the 14th century, the Gothic period finally came to an end.

At the end of the Gothic period, some artists, particularly in the North maintained the Gothic style, clinging to its traditions and values, even while Italy was embracing a new cultural and artistic age, the Renaissance.

Consequently, the end of the Gothic period has substantial overlap in time with both the Northern and Italian Renaissance eras of art.