France, especially Paris, has been the artistic center of the world, since the 1230s. In the middle of the twelfth century, at the far end of the Romanesque period, Gothic Art was born because of a Medieval Art Movement, which lasted until the Late Gothic Art in 1500 and the onset of Renaissance in 1515. Gothic style is known for its characteristic architectural arched design of its churches, its stained glass, its illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, frescos, & panel paintings. Most of these were religious in nature and brought in new perspective that were both visual and spiritual.
Three successive stages, Early, High, and Late Gothic, have been identified. Gothic Age, spanning from 1280 to around 1500 AD, was also a period of crusades, which led to increase in trade relations through the European continent. This resulted in the flow of Byzantine Art and artists to Western Europe. This movement of artistic currents brought in a new ‘Naturalist’ and ‘Secular’ style called the ‘International Gothic Art.’ This style manifested in the different parts of Europe during the late fourteenth and into the fifteenth century. Late Gothic Art blended the Gothic ingredients with the illusionist art of the Italian painters.
During the Late Gothic Period, the architectural style evolved into a more decorative phase, referred as the ‘flamboyant phase,’ which lasted until the fifteenth century. Cimabue and Giotto were a couple of most important artists of this era. During the Late Gothic phase the shape, structure, and the function of the buildings were completely hidden with decorations that covered the outer surface, as in the “Church of Saint-Maclou” in Rouen, France. The interior of the buildings were kept simple by removing pillars and replacing them with plain masonry support. Similar styles appeared in England with their ‘Perpendicular Style’ at the “Cathedral at Gloucester,” Germany; where high passageways were favored, as in the towers of the cathedrals at “Ulm,” “Strasbourg,” and “Spain.”
Sculptures and painted glass are closely related to the Gothic Architecture. Both decorated the outer surfaces of cathedrals and other religious buildings. During the Later Gothic Period, the art style had become increasingly ‘Naturalistic’ & mellow with distinct faces and figures. The Late Gothic Sculptures of the “Reims Cathedral” in France; the facades of “Bamberg,” “Strasbourg,” and “Naumbourg” Cathedrals,” in Germany; Italian Gothic Sculptures of Scaliger Tombs (1345-59), Verona, Italy; and the works of Giovanni Pisano in Siena & Pistoia, & of Lorenzo Maitani at Orvieto, all endorse the excellent Late Gothic Art. By the late fifteenth century, sculptors started their own workshops in towns & they were more organized into guilds or fellowships.
Mostly religious in essence, the Gothic Art included ‘Typological’ presentation of “New & Old Testaments,” such as in “Speculum Humanae Salvationis” of 1300s. Virgin Mary acquired a benevolent mother’s look with increased human essence, like “Life of the Virgin.” Christian and Roman styled Late Gothic Frescoes decorated the walls of the cathedrals in Southern Europe, while stained glasses were practiced in Northern Europe. Panel paintings were in vogue by the fifteenth century, taking over even stained glass. Oil painting also set its foot in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, priming in Renaissance Period.
Another distinct feature of Gothic Art was the illuminated manuscripts with realistically rendered figures of the members of the royal family and nobility, especially in the “Très riches heures du Duc de Berry (1413-1416).” Late Gothic Art eventually evolved into ‘Classic’ Renaissance Art in 1515 AD, bringing the stunning creative period to a historical end.