Gothic art is an artistic style typical of the medieval era. It was developed in France and then spread throughout the rest of Europe. Its development began in the middle of the 12th century and reached the beginning of the 16th century. It was a time of urban and commercial development; increased the monarchical power; the culture was secularized; there were scientific advances and the bourgeoisie was born. Gothic art was characterized by its monumental sculptures, its colorful architecture and its particular style in painting and other disciplines. It was replaced in the sixteenth century, by Renaissance art.
What is Gothic?
The word “Gothic” was used in the beginning as a synonym of “barbarian” in the art world. It was a negative term of opprobrium that named an art considered not very refined and far from the aesthetic forms of classical art. The term would have been invented by Giorgio Vasari, who used it in a pejorative way at the beginning of 1530, calling this art “monstrous and barbaric”. Even many great artists of the time criticized it strongly, but later, achieved recognition and the term “Gothic” was fixed to name this art. At present, this artistic period is considered one of the most important in Europe.
Characteristics of Gothic Art and Architecture
The most characteristic of Gothic art is its architecture, which has prevailed until today to be admired by the whole world, especially expressed in the cathedral. It is characterized by the use of the pointed arch and the ribbed vault, in which the thrusts are concentrated in the corners, thus allowing large windows to be opened in the side walls. The arches are important when linking the angles of the vault with external abutments.
There are several phases through which the Gothic architecture in France passed. The ‘protogótica’ phase in the XII century, presents pointed arches folded and very open. The interior elevation of four floors is consisting of arches, tribune, clerestory, and window. It has a vault divided into six and has little decoration. (Abbot of St. Denis, Notre Dame de Paris). The classic phase, at the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th, has slender arches, an interior elevation on three floors with arches, a court and a window and a rectangular vault. (Reims, Amiens, Chartres). The Mannerist phase, in the second half of the thirteenth and fourteenth century, is characterized by the more pointed arch, the interior elevation on two floors (arches and windows), vaults with secondary nerves and larger rosettes (Santa Capilla de París, Cathedral of Rouen). Finally,
Gothic Art Throughout the World
Gothic art was also important in England (cathedrals of Canterbury, York, and Westminster), in Germany (cathedrals of Cologne, Strasbourg, Marburg, Magdeburg and Regensburg), in Spain (cathedrals of Zamora, Tarragona, Burgos, Toledo, León, Palma of Mallorca, Barcelona, Gerona, among others), and with less importance in Portugal (convent of Batalha, Alcobaça monastery) and in Italy (Charterhouse of Pavia, city hall of Perugia and Casa del Oro ducal palace).
As for the sculpture, it was born in the walls of San Denis, which was the first Gothic building. The preferred space of this art was the different architectural parts of the cathedrals, although progressively moved away from it towards greater naturalism. The sculptures had a narrative character in which the figures communicated with each other to express pain, joy, sadness, etc. Highlights include the Royal Portico de Chartres, the cover of Senlis, the portals of cathedrals in Chartres and Reims, among others.
Finally, Gothic painting began about 50 years later than architecture and sculpture. It began with the linear Gothic period, with golden backgrounds, symbology, flat figures, bright colors, and Byzantine influence. Soon it happened to a period of italogótica painting, where the black line is lost. The abundance of decorative elements and the sinuous forms reached a stage known as international Gothic, which was a delicate style that developed in the courts of Europe between 1375 and 1425, highlighting that of the kings of France, the Dukes of Flanders and Berry. It survived until 1450 when it led to the birth of flamenco and Renaissance art. The international Gothic art was characterized by its elegance in the lines, its unreal backgrounds, its vivid colors, the delicacy of its characters.