Gothic Art is concerned with the painting, sculpture, architecture, and music characteristic of the second of two great international eras that flourished in western and central Europe during the Middle Ages. Architecture was the most important and original art form during the Gothic period. The principal structural characteristics of Gothic architecture arose out of medieval masons’ efforts to solve the problems associated with supporting heavy masonry ceiling vaults over wide spans, Gothic period art.
The problem was that the heavy stonework of the traditional arched barrel vault and the groin vault exerted a tremendous downward and outward pressure that tended to push the walls upon which the vault rested outward, thus collapsing them. A building’s vertical supporting walls had to be made extremely thick and heavy in order to contain the barrel vault’s outward thrust. First and foremost they developed a ribbed vault, in which arching and intersecting stone ribs support a vaulted ceiling surface that is composed of mere thin stone panels.Order now
This greatly reduced the weight of the ceiling vault, and since the vault’s weight was now carried at discrete points rather than along a continuous wall edge, separate widely spaced vertical piers to support the ribs could replace the continuous thick walls. The round arches of the barrel vault were replaced by pointed Gothic arches, which distributed thrust in more directions downward from the topmost point of the arch.
Since the combination of ribs and piers relieved the intervening vertical wall spaces of their supportive function, these walls could be built thinner and could even be opened up with large windows or other glazing. A crucial point was that the outward thrust of the ribbed ceiling vaults was carried across the outside walls of the nave, first to an attached outer buttress and then to a freestanding pier by means of a half arch known as a flying buttress.
The flying buttress leaned against the upper exterior of the nave, crossed over the low side aisles of the nave, and terminated in the freestanding buttress pier, which ultimately absorbed the ceiling vault’s thrust. These elements enabled Gothic masons to build much larger and taller buildings. The use of flying buttresses made it possible to build extremely tall, thin-walled buildings. Paris played an especially important role in the history of Gothic art. Three successive phases of Gothic architecture can be distinguished, respectively called: Early, High, and late Gothic.
Early Gothic. This first phase lasted from the Gothic style’s inception in 1120-50 to about 1200. The combination of all the structural elements into a coherent style first occurred in the ? “? ‹le-de-France (the region around Paris), The earliest surviving Gothic building was the abbey of Saint-Denis in Paris, begun in about 1140. Structures with similarly precise vaulting and chains of windows along the perimeter were soon begun with Notre-Dame de Paris (begun 1163) and Laon Cathedral (begun 1165).
A series of four discrete horizontal levels or stories in the cathedral’s interior were evolved, beginning with a ground-level arcade, over which ran one or two galleries (tribune, triforium), over which in turn ran an upper, windowed story called a clerestory. The columns and arches used to support these different elevations contributed to the severe and powerfully repetitive geometry of the interior. The long sides of the cathedral’s exterior presented a baffling and tangled array of piers and flying buttresses Early Gothic cont.
At the technical level Gothic architecture is characterized by the ribbed vault the pointed arch, and the flying buttress. These features were all present in a number of earlier, Romanesque buildings, and one of the major 12th- and early 13th-century achievements was to use this engineering expertise to create major buildings that became, in succession, broader and taller. Use of buttressing, especially of flying buttresses, made it possible both to build taller buildings and to open up the intervening wall spaces to create larger windows. In the 12th century larger windows produced novel lighting effects, not lighter churches.
The stained glass of the period was heavily colored and remained so well into the 13th century. One of the earliest buildings in which these techniques were introduced in a highly sophisticated architectural plan was the abbey of Saint-Denis , Paris . The East End was rebuilt about 1135-44, and, although the upper parts of the choir and apse were later changed, the ambulatory and chapels belong to this phase. The proportions are not large, but the skill and precision have given the abbey its traditional claim to the title “first Gothic building.
One of the most influential buildings was Chartres cathedral (present church mainly built after 1194). There, the architect abandoned entirely the use of the tribune gallery, but, instead of increasing the size of the arcade, he managed, by a highly individual type of flying buttress, to increase the size of the clerestory, or the upper part of the wall with windows for lighting the central space. This idea was followed in a number of important buildings, such as the 13th-century Reims and Amiens cathedrals.
The conception that the content of a great church should be dominated by large areas of glazing set in the upper parts was influential in the 13th century. The decorative features of these great churches were, on the whole, simple. In the second half of the 12th century it became fashionable to “bind” the interior elevation together by series of colonettes, or small columns, set vertically in clusters. Under the influence of Chartres cathedral, window tracery, decorative rib-work subdividing the window opening was gradually evolved. High Gothic
During the period from about 1250 to 1300 European art was dominated for the first time by the art and architecture of France. The reasons for this are not clear, although it seems certain that they are connected with the influence of the court of King Louis IX (1226-70). By about 1220-30 it must have been clear that engineering expertise had pushed building sizes to limits beyond which it was unsafe to go. The last of these gigantic buildings, Beauvais cathedral, had a disastrous history, which included the collapse of its vaults, and it was never completed.
In about 1230 architects became less interested in size and more interested in decoration. The result was the birth of what is known as the Rayonnant style (from the radiating character of the rose windows, which were one of its most prominent features). The earliest moves in this direction were at Amiens cathedral, where the choir triforium and clerestory were begun after 1236, and at Saint-Denis , where transepts and nave were begun after 1231. Architects opened up as much of the wall surface as possible, producing areas of glazing that ran from the top of the main arcade to the apex of the vault.
The combination of the triforium gallery and clerestory into one large glazed area had, of course, a unifying effect on the elevations. It produced an intricate play of tracery patterns and instantly unleashed an era of intense experiment into the form that these patterns should take. High Gothic cont. The decorative effect of this architecture depends not only on the tracery of the windows but also on the spread of tracery patterns over areas of stonework and on architectural features such as gables. In the history of this development, one building deserves special mention, the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.
This was Louis IX’s palace chapel, built to house an imposing collection of relics. It is a Rayonnant building in that it has enormous areas of glazing. Its form was extremely influential. The glass is heavily colored, the masonry heavily painted, and there is much carved detail. One of the characteristics of the second half of the 13th century is that glass became lighter, painting decreased, and the amount of carved decoration dwindled. Of the many smaller Rayonnant monuments that exist in France , one of the most complete is Saint-Urbain, Troyes (founded 1262).
Most countries produced versions of the Rayonnant style. In the Flamboyant style wall space was reduced to the minimum of supporting vertical shafts to allow an almost continuous expanse of glass and tracery. Structural logic was obscured by the virtual covering of the exteriors of buildings with tracery, which often decorated masonry as well as windows. A profusion of pinnacles, gables, and other details complicated the total effect. By the late Gothic period greater attention was being given to secular buildings.
Flamboyant Gothic features can be seen in many town halls, guildhalls, and even residences. There were few churches built completely in the Flamboyant style, attractive exceptions being Notre-Dame d’? “‰pine near Ch? “Nzlons-sur-Marne and Saint-Maclou in Rouen. Other important examples of the style are the Tour de Beurre of Rouen Cathedral and the north spire of Chartres. Flamboyant Gothic, which eventually became overly ornate, refined, and complicated, gave way in France to Renaissance forms in the 16th century. Sculpture
Gothic sculpture was closely tied to architecture, since it was used primarily to decorate the exteriors of cathedrals and other religious buildings. The earliest Gothic sculptures were stone figures of saints and the Holy Family used to decorate the doorways, or portals, of cathedrals in France and elsewhere. These figures, while retaining the dignity and monumentality of their predecessors, have individualized faces and figures, as well as full, flowing draperies and natural poses and gestures, and they display a classical poise that suggests an awareness of antique Roman models on the part of their creators.
Early Gothic masons also began to observe such natural forms as plants more closely, as is evident in the realistically carven clusters of leaves that adorn the capitals of columns. Gothic sculpture evolved into the more technically advanced and classicistic Renaissance style in Italy during the 14th and early 15th centuries but persisted until somewhat later in northern Europe. Painting Gothic painting followed the same stylistic evolution as did sculpture; from stiff, simple forms toward more relaxed and natural ones.
Paintings usually featured scenes and figures from the New Testament, particularly of the Passion of Christ and the Virgin Mary. These paintings display an emphasis on flowing, curving lines. Compositions became more complex as time went on, and painters began to seek means of depicting spatial depth in their pictures, a search that eventually led to the mastery of perspective in the early years of the Italian Renaissance. In Painting cont. late Gothic painting of the 14th and 15th centuries secular subjects such as hunting scenes, chivalric themes, and depictions of historical events also appeared.
Panel and wall painting evolved gradually into the Renaissance style in Italy during the 14th and early 15th centuries but retained many more of its Gothic characteristics until the late 15th and early 16th centuries in Germany, Flanders, and elsewhere in Northern Europe. Late Gothic .In France the local style of late Gothic is usually called Flamboyant, from the flame-like shapes often assumed by the tracery. The style did not significantly increase the range of architectural opportunities. Late Gothic vaults, for instance, are not normally very elaborate.
But the development of window tracery continued and, with it, the development of elaborates facades. Most of the important examples are in northern France –for example, Saint-Maclou in Rouen (c. 1500-14) and Notre-Dame in Alen? “§on (c. 1500). France also produced a number of striking 16th-century towers ( Rouen and Chartres cathedrals). The most notable feature of the great churches of Spain is the persistence of the influence of Bourges and the partiality for giant interior arcades. This is still clear in one of the last of the large Gothic churches to be built–the New Cathedral of Salamanca.
The end of Gothic The change from late Gothic to Renaissance was superficially far less cataclysmic than the change from Romanesque to Gothic. In the figurative arts, it was not the great shift from symbolism to realistic representation but a change from one realism to another. Architecturally, as well, the initial changes involved decorative material. For this reason, the early stages of Renaissance art outside Italy are hard to disentangle from late Gothic. Monuments like the huge Franche-Comt chantry chapel at Brou (1513-32) may have intermittent Italian motifs, but the general effect intended was not very different from that of Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster .
In fact, throughout Europe the “Italian Renaissance” meant, for artists between about 1500 and 1530, the embellishment, of an already rich decorative repertoire with shapes, motifs, and figures adapted from another canon of taste.
Change would have come in the north anyway and that adoption of Renaissance forms was a matter of coincidence and convenience. They were there at hand, for experiment. The use of Renaissance forms was certainly encouraged, however, by the general admiration for classical antiquity. They had a claim to “rightness” that led ultimately to the abandonment of all Gothic forms as being barbarous. This development belongs to the history of the Italian Renaissance.