Gothic Art is a style that came about in the mid-12th century and remained a popular art form until the end of the 16th century. Romanesque art is what Gothic art evolved from and the term Gothic was given by Italian writers during the Renaissance. The most prevalent and popular Gothic art was architecture, but it also involved painting and sculptures. In the period that Gothic art became popular, the use of beautiful cathedrals and stained glass windows became popular for worship places. Originating in France, Gothic art was named after tribes called Goths that were found north of the Alps. Although the Gothic style has nothing to do with Goths or dark and haunted places, which is what some when hearing the term Gothic thinks of, Gothic art does originate in that region. Scholars have suggested that Gothic art came from this area not having a strong style during the Romanesque period and so being very open to other influence. Needless to say, Gothic art was a dramatic change from the traditional Greek and Roman style.
Gothic architecture was built primarily in a way that allowed as much light as possible to filter into the structure. The main source was through the use of elaborate stained glass windows. Some windows were tall with a spear shape, while others were a circular style, often referred to as wheel or rose windows (Reynolds 2013, 2). Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis described this style as having harmony, which was the perfect relationship of each detail together. Suger was known as “The Father of Stained Glass” as he first developed the idea of creating a “heavenly light” to illuminate the cathedral through the use of stained glass (Reynolds 2013, 5). While the filtration of light was important, the stories expressed in the glass were of even greater value. The windows were visual sermons that had an enormous impact on their viewers. We can see the tradition of using stained glass windows in places of worship carried over into today’s society with the use of stained glass in many churches.
As Gothic architecture developed, secular buildings also adopted this style. Secular architecture includes castles, palaces, and civic buildings. The main characteristic of the Gothic style architecture was the use of vaulted ceilings, which were actually designed by the masons of this era as a way to support extremely heavy materials across a broad area. Also, the ceilings were made with great height back in this time period because they believed that they were reaching towards the heavens.
Most Gothic architecture and even sculptures were created from limestone, which was not an easy substance to work with or to come across. It took artists long amounts of time to finish their work in this era because of the lack of materials. Materials were in low supply because the Gothic period was during the Hundred Years’ War. Gothic art was also memorable for political change during this war and also a shift to urban growth. Urban growth meant more buildings such as universities and cathedrals. In any art form, Gothic style is very bold and dramatic with a great deal of detail. Gothic art is very large scaled and often built larger and with greater depth than other art styles which makes it stand out among other art forms, not only in its size, but also in its depth and detail.