Gothic Era

 


(Gothic and Early Renaissance)





European Painting from the 13th to the 15 th Century






 

 

Gothic Art Map
 
Exploration: Revelations (Art of the Apocalypse)
 
Exploration: Gothic Era  (Gothic and Early Renaissance)
 
 M. of the Glatz Madonna Masaccio Starnina Taddeo di Bartolo
 M. Theodoric Masolino M. Westphalian Marco Zoppo
 Torriti Jacopo Hans Memling M. of Schloss Altar Holbein the Younger
 Stefan Lochner Rogier van der Weyden M. Norwegian Andrea Mantegna
 Bonaventura Berlinghieri Hugo van der Goes Derick Baegert Cosme Tura
 M. Bertram of Munden Gerard David Lukas Moser Holbein the Elder
 M. of Kaufmann Crucifixion  Antonello da Messina M. of Albrecht Altar M. of Book of Hours
 M. of Wittingau Piero della Francesca Frances Nicolas M. of Alkmaar
 Lippo Memmi Pedro Berruguete Master E.S. M. Francke
 M. of Narbonne Parament M. of Westminster Altar Martin Schongauer M. of the Gothic Art
 Malouel Jean M. of Psalter of de Lisle Israhel van Meckenem Bernat Martorell
 M. of Wilton Dyptych M. of Cologne Workshop Bartolome Bermejo Michael Pacher
 Borrassa Lluis Sassetta Fernando Gallego Quentin Massys
 Pisanello Jaume Huguet Hans Multscher Nuno Goncalves
 Konrad of Soest Nicolas Froment Colantonio Martinus Opifex
 M. of the Ortenberg Altar M. of St. Veronica  Lluis Dalmau Juan de Levi
 Filippo Brunelleschi M. of the Paradise Garden Barthelemy d'Eyck Saxon Workshop
 Joos van Gent Limburg brothers M. of Life of the Virgin Lorenzo Monaco
 Bartolo di Fredi Robert Campin M. of St. Bartholomew Jean Fouquet
 Hubert & Jan van Eyck Konrad Witz Dieric Bouts Jacopo Bellini 

Exploration:
Albrecht Durer
 





Lukas Moser

Master of the Albrecht Altar

Frances Nicolas





See also collection:

Master E.S.

Martin Schongauer

Israhel van Meckenem

Bartolome Bermejo

Fernando Gallego


Hans Multscher



 

 

Changing motifs and artistic originality

A further consequence of the workshop system was that compositional originality played nowhere near the same role in the Netherlands as it did in later epochs or even in contemporary Italy. In the Netherlands of the 15th century, by contrast, compositional solutions, poses and figural types which were judged to be good were handed down over more than a hundred years. Thus the Last Suppers of the period around 1500, for example, employ elements which were already present in the Last Supper which Konrad of Soest  painted for his Bad Wildung altar of 1403. Providing the richest source of all, however, was the oeuvre of Rogier van der Weyden, whose Descent from the Cross in the Madrid Prado became the most influential painting of the Early Netherlandish school — even before the van Eyck' Ghent Altar.
Whereas Jan van Eyck was preoccupied above all with surfaces, Rogier van der Weyden, in this respect more Italian, was interested in structures. As if inspired by fragile marionettes, what is so surprising about Rogier's figures is their - for a Netherlandish artist - astonishingly harmonious proportions and the flexibility of their individual limbs. Whatever other changes might be made, the layout of his Descent, the pose of his Mary Magdalene and the head type of his St John would remain constants until well into the latter phase of the school.
Paradoxically, it was precisely this underdeveloped capacity for free, independent observation and the corresponding perpetuation of long-established formulae from one generation to the next which, along with landscape and technique, met with interest in the South. A decisive intermediary role was played in this context by northern woodcuts and copperplate engravings, which like the paintings themselves were distinguished by their extraordinarily high standard of execution. This made them sought-after collector's items which, in contrast to panel paintings, could transport new compositional solutions smoothly and quickly over hundreds of miles.
This time it was Germany which assumed a leading role. Here the genre was carried to its greatest heights by four artists in particular: Master E.S. (active c. 1450—c. 1467), Martin Schongauer (c. 1435/50-1491), Israhel van Meckenem (active c. 1457-c. 1465/70) and Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), in whose work Raphael was also interested. Schongauer's engravings enjoyed particularly wide distribution, travelling as far as the Iberian peninsula — one of them is supposed to have been coloured by none less than Michelangelo. Durer, meanwhile, would make up for his disappointment at being unable to study under Schongauer in person by becoming an avid collector of the works he left behind. Schongauer played an important intermediary role, too, having at one stage possibly been active in Rogier's workshop. The impact of his own art made itself felt in the Netherlands, where artists produced paintings which can only be described as colour versions of Schongauer's copper engravings - and this on occasions only months after the originals were first printed. The same was true in Spain, where they were similarly copied by Bartolome Bermejo (c. 1430- after 1498) and Fernando Gallego (c. 1440-c. 1507).

 

 

Standardization versus observation

The van Eyck's, and many other later Early Netherlandish artists, too, remained indebted to the Middle Ages not just in their working methods. For all the verism they achieved in individual heads, they simply replaced the broad-foreheaded faces of the period around 1400 with their own ideal of an elongated oval. One stylization thus replaced another — thanks not least to Rogier, the master of the type. In other respects, too, until far into the 16th century the only corrections being made were minor adjustments, rather than fundamental changes to composition, proportion, the human figure, draperies or landscape. The innovations being pioneered south of the Alps found their way at best into subsidiary details. Even the tracery, crockets and finials of Gothic decoration remained fundamental not just to built architecture but also to goldsmiths, sculptors and painters.
In complete contrast to developments in Italy, this led in most cases to an even greater proliferation of the old forms, to greater overloading rather than greater simplicity. The Netherlandish, German and Spanish artists were so immersed in the formulae of the past that, even when they adopted a Renaissance motif for a capital, frieze or gable, the composition, proportion and structure of the building or furnishing in question remained entirely beholden to the Gothic style. At the same time, and again in contrast to Italy, virtually no new pictorial genres were evolving. Although the individual portrait was becoming increasingly popular, production continued to be dominated by religious subjects.

 

Perpetuation of the calligraphic element

For all the brilliance of colour, for all the delights of the pictorial surface, however, supremacy continued to lie with two-dimensional line, as can be seen particularly from the few preparatory drawings that survive from the 15th century. The drawings executed directly on the panel itself, as visible today either through the fading glazes above them or with the help of infra-red light, concentrate primarily upon the detailed positioning of the draperies. Whereas heads, hands and elements of landscape are indicated for the most part with the most fleeting of strokes, the contours of drapery folds are precisely laid down and their hollows shaded with generous hatching. The only thing that changed after 1400 with the van Eyck's and Campin was the style of these folds: softly undulating hems now gave way to sharp fissures. Whereas the painters of the International Gothic had indulged their love of line in the billowing draperies which enfolded their figures, these had now dropped flat to the ground, lying like a front garden at their wearer's feet and gridded with clearly ridged folds.
The Ghent Altar Annunciation can be seen as highly typical of this trend, although it was by no means restricted to kneeling or seated figures. The two Ghent figures are typical in another respect, too. Their draperies are intended to look unstudied, but in truth nothing has been left to chance. In the case of the Virgin, the effect is achieved by the folds which fall first vertically downwards, and which then spill sharply sideways, in a slight overlapping of astonishingly smooth rectangular and trapezoidal planes. Almost more influential would be the numerous triangular forms making up the angel, who is lent additional relief by the wedge-shaped hollows in his robes. No less important than the folds themselves are the strong light and deep shadows which make them visible, and which give the draperies their powerful plasticity.

 

Impact of the Eyck' innovations

The style of an artist's drapery folds is thus the most reliable criterion by which to determine whether he had come under the spell of the Eyck revolution — more so than broader proportions, more individual faces or the "realistic" representation of plants and other details, aspects which depend more on the individuality of the artist and the subjectivity of the viewer. The impact of the Eyck' innovations upon their contemporaries must have been enormous. When a visit to an exhibition introduces us to a previously unknown direction in art, after leaving the museum we see our surroundings through the eyes of the artist we have just been viewing. The painters who were confronted by the inventions of the van Eyck could no longer see a face, a fold, a fruit tree or a sunset in the same way as before.
Within just five years of the completion of the Ghent Altar, outstanding representatives of this new direction in art had already emerged in various parts of southwest Germany. The Magdalene Altar by Lukas Moser (c. 1390 — after 1434) in Tiefenbronn carries the same 1432 date as the
van Eyck own masterpiece, while the Wurzach Altar by the Ulm artist Hans Multscher (c. 1390-c. 1467) is dated 1437. The Albrecht Altar in Vienna must also have arisen around 1437, and the Rottweil artist Konrad Witz appears to have painted his great Mirror of Salvation altarpiece in Basle at about the same time. Six hundred miles further west, Nicolas Frances (c. 1434— c. 1468) had already painted the high altar for Leon cathedral before 1434. They all feature the new realism, the heavy, massive forms and the heavy draperies falling in angular folds.

 

 

 
  Lukas Moser

( fl c. 1430).

German painter. His name is known only through an inscription on the frame of the altarpiece above the altar of St Mary Magdalene in the parish church at Tiefenbronn, near Pforzheim. This altarpiece is as important to the art of German-speaking lands as van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece is to that of the Netherlands. Both were completed in 1432.

 

 

Magdalene Altar
1432

 

 

Lucas Moser
Magdalene Altar
1432

Lucas Moser
Magdalene Altar
1432

 

 

 

Lucas Moser
Magdalene Altar (detail)
1432

   
 


Lucas Moser
Magdalene Altar (detail)
1432

   
 

 

 

Master of the Albrecht Altar

Viennese Master, active 1430-1450

 

 


Master of the Albrecht Altar
Elijah Divides the River of Jordan
c. 1437
Museum des Chorherrenstifres, Klosterneuburg

   
 

Master of the Albrecht Altar
Mary as Queen of the Powers
c. 1437
Museum des Chorherrenstifres, Klosterneuburg

 



 

 

Frances Nicolas

Spanish painter (active 1424-1468 in Leon)

   


Nicolas Frances
Mary Enters the Temple
1434
(from the high altar of Leon cathedral)
Cathedral, Leon

 

 


Nicolas Frances
St Jerome in his Cell
1450s
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
 


Nicolas Frances
St Jerome in his Cell
1450s
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
 

 

 

 


Nicolas Frances
Altarpiece with the Lifestory of the Virgin and St Francis or Altarpiece of La Baneza
1440s
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

 

 


Nicolas Frances
Altarpiece with the Lifestory of the Virgin and St Francis or Altarpiece of La Baneza
Scenes from the Life of St Francis
1440s
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

 

 


Nicolas Frances
Altarpiece with the Lifestory of the Virgin and St Francis or Altarpiece of La Baneza
Scenes from the Life of St Francis
1440s
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

 

 


Nicolas Frances
Altarpiece with the Lifestory of the Virgin and St Francis or Altarpiece of La Baneza
Scenes from the Life of St Francis
1440s
Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

 

 


Nicolas Frances
Altarpiece with the Lifestory of the Virgin and St Francis or Altarpiece of La Baneza
Anunciacion
1440s
Museo del Prado, Madrid

          

See also collection:

Master E.S.

Martin Schongauer

Israhel van Meckenem

Bartolome Bermejo

Fernando Gallego

Hans Multscher

 

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