Gothic – Introduction

The Gothic!

Today I am going to introduce one of the most enigmatic art styles: Gothic!

Let’s find out its secrets!

Hi Art lovers and welcome back!

Today we are going to learn more about a really interesting and enigmatic style: Gothic Art.

Yes, because, if you think about it, we have an idea of what it is, but we could have some problems to define it and understand its features. My goal today, and in the next posts, is to make order and discover what there is behind this fascinating art style.

Part of its mystery depends on the fact that Gothic Art developed during the Medieval period, a very complicated and dynamic historic and artistic stage. It emerged in Île-de-France, the Northern region that includes Paris, in the early 12th century as new architectural style at the Basilica of St Denis rebuilt at will of Abbot Suger. The French Abbot wanted the Church with a lot of innovations that revolutionized, not only the architecture, but the entire visual art style in Europe!

Basilica of Saint-Denis_outisde_gothic introduction
Basilica of Saint-Denis

Gothic Evolution

From the Île-de-France, in fact, Gothic spread easily to all of Northern Europe and much of Southern. Just in Italy it had a slight less “impact” on the architecture. The reason is that Italy was still linked to more “classical” styles, mostly the Romanesque art from which the Gothic evolved.

While in Italy the new style was having troubles to be “accepted”, in the rest of Europe it spread really fast reaching its top in the late 14th century with the sophisticated court style of International Gothic. This one continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas, especially Germany, Late Gothic art lasted until the 16th century, before being subsumed into Renaissance art.

St. Barbara's Church, Kutná Hora - International Gothic - introduction
St. Barbara's Church

The style rapidly spread beyond its origins in architecture to sculpture (both monumental and personal in size) and painting, which took a variety of forms, including fresco, stained glass, illuminated manuscript and panel painting.

A big issue, that makes this style so difficult to define, is related to its many regional variations. In few decades in fact Gothic evolved a lot and the next posts are going to help us going deeper in its characteristics. For the moment I can say that the Gothic’s main feature is to make God and men closer. That’s why it was born as architecture style with the main challenge of reaching heights never achieved before. And with the same purposed it started to be successfully applied in other visual arts.

Why “Gothic”?

A last note: why the name “Gothic”? Probably you are wondering why I did not say it before and the reason is that the name was given just in the 16th century and not with a “positive” meaning… Actually the great painter Raffaello Sanzio used the word “Gothic” in a letter to Pope Leo X as a synonym for “Barbaric” in the 1518. in 1530 the Italian artist and writer Giorgio Vasari, author of the amazing “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects” (probably the most famous and one of the most-read works of the older literature of art) , called the Gothic art a “monstrous and barbarous” “disorder” made the meaning more popular.

…maybe that’s why Gothic has never been so popular in Italy… 😀 JK 😉 but actually there is a reason if two of the smartest, skilled and knowledgeable artists of that time were defining it like that. And it is because the new style looked unrefined and too remote from the aesthetic proportions and shapes of Classical art. Like I said before, in Italy the “Classical footprint” was really strong and we will see soon the consequences of these amazing artistic thrusts!

I hope you enjoyed this Gothic introduction. Watch also the video on YouTube and remember to subscribe to the channel so you won’t miss the next episodes! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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