Gothic art

Gothic art was a Medieval art movement that lasted about 300 years. It began in France out of the Romanesque period in the mid-12th century concurrent with Gothic architecture in Cathedrals; by the late 14th century it had evolved towards a more secular and natural style known as International Gothic, which continued until the late 15th century evolving into the Renaissance. The primary Gothic art mediums were sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, frescos and illuminated manuscripts.

Gothic art told a narrative story through pictures, both Christian and secular

The earliest Gothic art was Christian sculpture, born on the walls of Cathedrals and abbeys. Christian art was often typological in nature,showing the stories of the New Testament and the Old Testament side by side. Saints' lives were often depicted. Images of the Virgin Mary changed from the Byzantine iconic form to a more human and affectionate mother, cuddling her infant, swaying from her hip, and showing the refined manners of a well-born aristocratic court lady.

Secular art came in to its own during this period with the rise of cities, foundation of universities, increasing trade, a money-based economy and a bourgeois class who could afford to patron the arts and commission works resulting in a proliferation of paintings and illuminated manuscripts. Increased literacy and a growing body of secular vernacular literature encouraged the representation of secular themes in art. With the growth of cities, trade guilds were formed and artists were often required to be members of a guild—as a result, because of better record keeping, more artists are known to us by name in this period than any previous, some artists were even so bold as to sign their names.

Gothic sculpture:
Gothic sculpture was born on the wall, in the middle of the 12th century in Ile-de-France, when Abbot Suger built the abbey at St. Denis (ca. 1140), considered the first Gothic building, and soon after the Chartres Cathedral (ca. 1145). Prior to this there had been no sculpture tradition in Ile-de-France—so sculptors were brought in from Burgundy, who created the revolutionary figures acting as columns in the Western (Royal) Portal of Chartres Cathedral (see image)—it was an entirely new invention, and would provide the model for a generation of sculptors.

The French ideas spread. In Germany, from 1225 at the Cathedral in Bamberg onward, the impact can be found everywhere. The Bamberg Cathedral had the largest assemblage of 13th century sculpture, culminating in 1240 with the Bamberg Rider, the first equestrian statue in Western art since the 6th century. In England the sculpture was more confined to tombs and non-figurine decorations (which can in part be blamed on Cistercian iconoclasm). In Italy there was still a Classical influence, but Gothic made inroads in the sculptures of pulpits such as the Pisa Baptistery pulpit (1269) and the Siena pulpit.

Gothic sculpture evolved from the early stiff and elongated style, still partly Romanesque, into a spatial and naturalistic feel in the late 12th and early 13th century. Influences from surviving ancient Greek and Roman sculptures were incorporated into the treatment of drapery, facial expression and pose.

Dutch-Burgundian sculptor Claus Sluter and the taste for naturalism signaled the beginning of the end of Gothic sculpture, evolving into the classicistic Renaissance style by the end of the 15th century.

Gothic painting:
Simone Martini (1285-1344). Dark themes and high emotion were increasingly pronounced in late Gothic art.Painting in a style that can be called "Gothic" did not appear until about 1200, or nearly 50 years after the start of Gothic architecture and sculpture. The transition from Romanesque to Gothic is very imprecise and not at all a clear break, but we can see the beginnings of a style that is more somber, dark and emotional than the previous period. This transition occurs first in England and France around 1200, in Germany around 1220 and Italy around 1300.

Painting (the representation of images on a surface) during the Gothic period was practiced in 4 primary crafts: frescos, panel paintings, manuscript illumination and stained glass. Frescoes continued to be used as the main pictorial narrative craft on church walls in southern Europe as a continuation of early Christian and Romanesque traditions. In the north stained glass was the art of choice until the 15th century. Panel paintings began in Italy in the 13th century and spread throughout Europe, so by the 15th century they had become the dominate form supplanting even stained glass. Illuminated manuscripts represent the most complete record of Gothic painting, providing a record of styles in places where no monumental works have otherwise survived. Painting with oil on canvas does not become popular until the 15th and 16th centuries and was a hallmark of Renaissance art.