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The artistic style prevalent in Europe, soon after the decline of the Romanesque style; dating first to 12th century France. A masterpiece example of Gothic art is the Abbey Church of Saint Denis near Paris, with its long tall windows, high arches and relatively thin walls. In place of the harsh, almost abstract Romanesque fashion of ornamentation this new kind of architecture and sculpture was far more figurative and natural looking. Some architectural innovations truly define the Gothic look- cathedrals that span heights never seen before, pointed arches, huge ribbed vaults, flying buttresses, complex window designs of multi-colored glass. There was little emphasis on painting in this era, as it took back seat to architecture and stone masonry.
In the early 13th century the Gothic style reached it's peak with the Riems Cathedral and the Amiens Cathedral. Deep bas reliefs adorn every wall, windows are cut into triangular shaped niches- dark, looming and letting in very little sunlight. Human figures of saints and kings are depicted with somber expressions, thinking deep thoughts in grim reflection, but also exquisitely carved with a new attempt to individualize them. They look other-worldly, their stone robes fall gracefully at their sides as they hover above ground with their feet dangling. This is still Christian dogma, and the sheer size of the churches definitely has a role in subjugating you before you ever step into the building, but it is nevertheless a kinder, more moderate version of the Christian outlook. This coincides with the growing philosophy of the times- a search for the Eternal Truth and a rediscovery of Classical literature. This is a time of scholastic learning, with the Church trying to prove religious tenets through rational thought and return to the original writing of the church's founding fathers. Furthermore, funding for art projects was increasingly coming in from secular sources. In the 12th century the professional artisan guilds sprang up, and the central art hot-spots were no longer in abbeys or monasteries, but in the big cities.
As the centuries advanced, the style became ever more heavily decorated, the stain glass windows even bigger and more ostentatious. The wood and stone carvings were refined in detail. At its peak the style spread to Spain, England, and Germany, and helped be the catalyst for the Italian religious painting of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. The Italian painters of the late 13th century began a real artistic revolution, introducing the first naturalistic buds that would flower into the style of the Renaissance. Far enough away from the Gothic styles prevalent in France and Germany, the Italians kept the traditions of mosaics alive, and retained a lot of the Byzantine characteristics.
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