Gothic art was born of Romanesque movement, developed by the middle of the 12th century in France. Gothic architecture and gothic art both spread all over Western Europe. However, Gothic style had lesser influence in the southern part of the Alps, specifically in Italy that still had strong classical influences. Gothic art was able to maintain its popularity throughout Europe until 16th century when started to vanish little by little when Renaissance art started taking its spot.
Hallmarks of Gothic Art
Gothic art hallmarks include different forms like sculpture, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, and paintings on panels. Gothic arts also considered fresco as an important media. Since Gothic art is vastly different from classical art, it was often deemed as barbaric.
However, Gothic art saw the rise of trade guilds, with the painters’ guilds keeping critical records of the artists for the very first time in history. The Gothic era saw the growth of cities and establishments of universities that make the Gothic movement a crucial era in the history of Europe.
It was in sculpture where Gothic art was seen first, specifically the cathedrals’ monumental sculptures or abbeys. Many art historians were able to trace the pioneer Gothic sculpture examples to the St. Denis Abbey in Ile-de-France established around 1140. The popular Chartres Cathedral followed, built in 1145.
Also called French art, Gothic art soon spread to the country of Germany. Here, the completion of Bamberg Cathedral served as the perfect example of Gothic art. During the construction of the cathedral, the movement started to spread all over the western continent.
It was not until 5 years after the start of the rise of Gothic sculpture and architecture when Gothic painting rose in popularity. Just like Romanesque and Christian painting, Gothic painting was commonly seen in church frescos. The stained glass painting and manuscript illumination were also critical forms of Gothic painting. When the 15th century came, panel painting became an essential painting medium.
Gothic Art Subjects
Gothic art subjects were usually religious in nature. However, this period also showed interest in the secular art. With the continuous improvement of literacy rates and as more people became art patrons, there are also new subject matters that came to existence. Scenes usually portrayed narratives of stories in the Bible. The Madonna, a more human and less iconic woman became a strong figure in Gothic art. Cathedrals and churches were covered in religious subject matters that were also expressed in tapestry and metal work.
The Gothic era also became popular for its architectural and artistic innovations including the flying buttress as well as the pointed arch that let builders erect taller cathedrals that have larger spaces for glasswork that make the structures seem lighter compared to the previous ones.
The best Gothic art examples include the altar piece of Krakow’s St. Mary’s Church in 15th century, the Strasbourg Cathedral’s Adoration of the Magi, and the Garden of Gethsemane of Ulmer Munster. Some of the most notable artists that specialize in Gothic art include Bonaventura Berlinghieri, Simone Martini, Giottino, and Fra Angelico.