Gothic Revival Section

Gothic Art

The art and sculpture which was popular during the times the historical Goths roamed the earth is not what is called gothic art. Gothic art is actually the pre-medieval and medieval art which existed before the Renaissance. It was called Gothic not because of the people who made it, but because those who came after it found it as crude as the Ancient Romans found the Goths to be. There were many different periods within this time, some critics count them all as gothic, others divide them, but you will find that there is some continuity throughout the period, and a great break when the Renaissance occurs.

Typically you see the influences of the Byzantine Period and the Romanesque period in gothic art, in fact some scholars have linked the Romanesque and Byzantine periods to it. While there is, as I said, very strong themes running through all three, I do believe it best to separate them. The Byzantine influence can be seen in early Gothic art with it's colors and subject matter. The Romanesque period came just before it and, again, the primary influence is in the themes found in early Gothic art. However, gothic art did stray from these two quite considerably.

One first notices that in all three forms of art, art and religion tend to be inseparable. The art has a lot of meaning spiritually and was created to awe and inspire the viewer. Pope Gregory (creator of the Gregorian chant) said "Painting can do for the illiterate what writing does for those who read." Not all art was Christian, however. You will find pagan references all throughout gothic art, and this is especially true in the Celtic territories. Gothic painting started with stiff, stylised figures and evolved into more complex forms. It was always adding influences from other places and was somewhat experimental. There was a greater emphasis on the day to day and the form was more naturalistic as time went on.

When creating sculpture, the artist was also looking to instruct and inspire the observer. Most art was created from a Christian viewpoint, but there were also many beautiful sculptures of nature and animals, without the strict adherence to proportions that you see in other periods. Originally sculpture was attached to spires in large buildings and churches, but evolved into freestanding sculpture by the late gothic period. In the early period, the sculpture was slightly tall and elongated, in the later period you will see more natural looking features. This is also the period of time where the gargoyle entered the picture. These creatures were monstrous variations of animals and were placed all over cathedrals and public buildings, presumably as protectors.

One thing worth mentioning for art during this period is the convention known as "Illuminated Manuscripts." Books were handwritten during this period and important books were often decorated as well. There is often a very elaborate, colourful decoration around the outside edges, spare pages and the cover. There might be illustrations on facing pages as well. Some of the most beautiful of these illuminated manuscripts have been found in Ireland.

There was a revival of gothic art and architecture known as the "gothic revival period" during the Victorian era, and some modern artists will attempt to paint or sculpt in a gothic style.

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