15th – 17th Century – Summary of notes

Tutor report notes with suggestions/corrections are at the end of each section.

15TH CENTURY NOTES

POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL FACTORS

Florence became region state from city-state due to threat of invasion from the North being removed and Florence looking back to when it was a Republic of Rome.  Economic & cultural links with Flanders and Italy – both still affected by 15th C economic depression.  Economic cost limited types of art including sculpture – many goldsmiths became painters. Cost of sculpture effected rise in madonnieri in stucco as opposed to bronze or marble.  Church reforms meant increased demand for religious works but humanist interests complemented revival of classical forms.  Humanists were scholars and thinkers with interest in Classical times, optics, science, nature and man – affected arts with new styles and developments.  Church reforms combined with humanist effect on paintings affected public and church realised that frescoes in churches could be used to teach the illiterate. Development of printing in Venice at end of 15th Century changed intellectual life forever.

CHANGES TO STATUS OR TRAINING OF ARTISTS

Renaissance period separated artist from craftsman (particularly architects). Only in Italy artists held in high enough esteem to be written about including Jan van Eyck of Netherlands. Leon Battista Alberti changed role of architects/visual arts through his treatise. Patrons commissioned arts for aesthetic reasons. Goldsmiths became painters due to low value of materials – painters and potters specialized in small objects. Albert Durer obsessed with status but still ranked with other craftsman.

DEVELOPMENT OF MATERIALS AND PROCESSES

Brunelleschi developed engineering system that did away with centering system for arches/vaults plus invented linear perspective and raised art of painting to scientific level.  Massaccio discovered how to foreshorten figures so when combined with linear perspective temporal and eternal reality could be seen.  Systematic rules of representation of 3 dimensional spaces worked out in Florentine theories – Flemish artists worked out by trial and error through experiments with linear and aerial perspective.  Van Eyck brothers mastered perspectival foreshortening for when figures viewed from below.  Oil paints developed by Flemish artists. Glazes used on sculpted reliefs meant roundels appeared painted as opposed to sculpted. Compositional patterns developed which allowed for 2 or more moments in time depicted in separate but cohesive works. Colour harmonies and new interest in light and optics – art more dependent on theories of mathematics and geometrical diagrams. Art of printing appeared Europe mid-century – revolutionary. Print making developed from carved wooden blocks and silver engraving with improvements in linen-rag paper.

STYLES AND MOVEMENTS

Renaissance style in Italian architecture replaced Gothic style. Chiaroscuro technique was almost style of its own. Controlled naturalism was common. Flemish paintings everything symbolic.  More conceptual style – Italy liked creative force in nature but Flemish the created world in nature. Religious works more austere. Classical style revived in architecture with variations in texture – French style was more opulent show of wealth. Bronze statuettes and medals revitalized – became independent works of art. Outside of Florence style still illusionistic. Landscapes surrounded figures as well as viewer with figures seen in the present as opposed to spiritual realms. Carving and painting of wood effectively new form of art – seen in wood marriage coffers/cassoni. Venetian synthesis – separate style. Style in Padua primarily Gothic. Venetian sculpture strongly classical antique. Bellini developed new style which combined Flemish and Florentine art with softness that was unique to Venetian art. Albrect Durer developed northern style of Renaissance art.

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE INFLUENCES

Classical antiquity. Flemish artists on Italian and vice versa. Humanism. Christianity. Astrology and astronomy. Mathematics, geometry, optics, study of the human body, nature – humanist studies. Printing. S Sebastian due to being patron saint of the sick at time of repeated outbreaks of plague.

CRITICS, THINKERS AND HISTORIANS

Gianzzo Manetti – declared ‘truths of Christian religion are as self-evident as the laws of mathematics’ (p. 418 WHA). Leonardo Bruni. Leon Battista Alberti architect and writer of painting, architecture and sculpture treatise. Lorenzo Ghiberti – Commentaries – includes history of art plus account of art from mid-15th Century plus idea of Renaissance. Bartolommeo Fazio – speaks of rediscovery of pigments known to Pliny and Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden. Carlo Marsuppini – Classical scholar who first translated Homer into Italian verse. Savonarola – Dominican preacher – renounced the Medici. Piero della Francesca – wrote treatise on geometrical bodies as well as perspective plus books on abacas for merchants amongst other published works. Georgio Vasari – wrote of Mantegna and his idealisation of faith and style indebted to antiquity – Vasari was Italian painter, architect, writer, history, and his treatise is considered the foundation of art-historical writing (Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects).

CHANGES TO STATUS OR TRAINING OF ARTISTS

Renaissance period separated artist from craftsman (particularly architects). Only in Italy artists held in high enough esteem to be written about including Jan van Eyck of Netherlands. Leon Battista Alberti changed role of architects/visual arts through his treatise. Patrons commissioned arts for aesthetic reasons. Goldsmiths became painters due to low value of materials – painters and potters specialized in small objects. Albert Durer obsessed with status but still ranked with other craftsman.

TUTOR NOTES:

  • Reminder of main themes being revival of classical styles and ideas (including humanism) and return of naturalistic style and also rising status of the individual including artist and patron.
  • Cennino Cennini – The Craftsman’s Handbook – primary reading for this period.

16th CENTURY

POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL

Major event of 16th Century was religious reform – Protestant Reformation called into question teachings/practice of the Catholic Church. Invention of printing major factor in fame of the arts and spread the writings of the reformation.  Social beliefs in sickness – seen as punishment for sin by some but act of grace that could restore health of soul by others. New urban culture in Germany appeared after Black Death with recovery of trade and industry as result. Peasants War of 1524-6 – sculpting declined after and many sculptors/artists emigrated.  First quarter of 16th Century unsettled in Italy due to war and political stress. Northern Europe twice invaded by France, Papacy struggled with extending power and Rome sacked in 1527 by German and Spanish Mercenaries plus Florence went from republic to autocratic rule by Medici and then expelled with Rome sacked and reverted to republic. Counter Reformation sponsored by Pope Paul III.  Venice remained richer than any other city in Italy in 16th Century by resisting the political/economic domination plus retained nominal republic (oligarch) system of government. Venetian patricians turned to farmers to keep economic independence from the north. Spain in last quarter of 16th Century leading power in Europe with dominions reaching as far as Peru and Netherlands – won battle in 1571 against Turkish fleet at Lapanto (major victory for Christendom) plus promoted Counter Reformation strongly.

CHANGES TO STATUS OR TRAINING OF ARTISTS

Artists took their place with great minds of 16th Century – except for Durer all top artists were Italian – printed accounts of work directly resulted in this status. Change to status also resulted from Alberti’s treatise on architecture, painting and sculpture that meant visual arts could be liberal arts.  Wood carvers gained recognition of craft and became middle ranking of society and member of guilds with one becoming mayor of Wurzburg.

DEVELOPMENT OF MATERIALS AND PROCESSES

New techniques of pictorial representation. Innovations in drawings started by Leonardo da Vinci – first to draw anatomically correct figures. Use of light defining feature in development of painting. Contrapposto principle applied/developed. Harmonious unity developed – inspired architects and painters. Use of colour contrasts developed – created animation/harmony. Relationship between figures and architectural setting huge innovation – Raphael. Problems with painting curved surfaces solved by Michelangelo in Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo also started process of making full sized models which assistants carved until he added finishing touches – process used for next 4 centuries. Giorgione – first artist to explore luminous techniques of oil painting on canvas as opposed to wood. Raphael invented ¾ length pose with ¾ face pose for portraits. Titian finished paintings with highlights or toning down contrasts – new technique/attitude in painting. Architects solved problem of turning Classical temple into a church in Venice – Andrea Palladio on the S Georgio Maggiore. Mathematical ratio on design of villas in Venetian estates – harmoniously proportioned.

STYLES AND MOVEMENTS

Italian Renaissance art co-existed in Northern Europe with Gothic in first ¼ of century (e.g. Tomb of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey) but prestigious in France and England for dynastic monuments. Perpendicular Gothic style still in England but Flamboyant Gothic style in France. Hieronymous Bosch, Netherlands – unique style with disturbing imagination and creative visions.  Grunewald very violent style in his depiction of Christ on the cross. Reformed religious art reflected Lutheran ideas – Lucas Cranach the Younger, Holbein and Durer. Earliest landscapes done by Albrect Altdorfer.  High Renaissance art come into being despite political unrest. Free standing church which is centrally planned with hemispherical dome crowning it … da Vinci experimented with designs but Bramante realised them in the Tempietto.  Figure of David by Michelangelo – first nude to be sculpted in that scale since antiquity but un-Classical style. Giorgione rejected rationality of Renaissance style but kept the mystery and magic of it. Mannerist style as done by Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo. Mutations of Renaissance style – Corregio and Parmigianino. Contrapposto eventually went to England and used in Elizabethan portraits by artists such as Nicholas Hilliard.

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE INFLUENCES

Imitation of Christ by possibly Thomas a Kempis. Humanism. Devotio moderna and Counter Reformation. Luther. John Calvin. Leonardo da Vinci. Raphael. Neoplatonism – influenced Michelangelo. Literary texts – direct influence on Titian for his works for Phillip II. Castiglione’s influence due to the acceptance of women artists such as Sofonisita Anguissola and then Lavinia Fontana (first internationally famous women artists).

CRITICS, THINKERS AND HISTORIANS

Desiderius Erasmus – ‘laid the egg that Luther hatched’ (p. 458 WHA) – humanist. Julian of Norwich – Revelations of Devine Love – Devotio Moderna. Imitation of Christ by possibly Thomas a Kempis. Giorgio Vasari – painter, architect and biographer of artists. Leonardo da Vinci – thousands of pages never published but accepted thinker. Palladio wrote of use of light of Donato Bramante plus his initiation of new phase of Renaissance architecture – also first writer to publish own work. Baldassare Castiglione – The Book of the Courtier. Luca Landucci – journal on art that was one of the most influential at the time. Copernicus – scientific validity of Hellenistic notion of heliocentric universe. Marcantonio Michiel – first writer to describe work of Giorgione. Dick Volckertszoon Coornheert – leading exponent in religious thought known as Libertinism or Spiritualism.

TUTOR NOTES:

  • My tutor has pointed me towards https://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct25.html  as it is a primary source regarding the actual decrees for the laity – Counter Reformation and Council of Trent’s discussions on the potential of art in order to help the Catholic church’s cause and instruct a laity. These decrees are lengthy and at the time of writing I am struggling slightly with them but they give very clear orders for what is expected plus informative on the role that art can play in the Reformation.
  • My tutor has asked me to try and expand my material on the following:  “Venetian art:  In connection with Tintoretto and Veronese, observe the modelling of colours and exquisite rendering of fabrics. (Veronese’s depiction of rich fabrics and jewels is thought to reflect a Venetian preoccupation with material goods and commercialism). ” UPDATE: January 2017 – this is a point, along with the point on the Mannerist style, that I had overlooked but as I consider what my tutor wrote now I think about how the Venetians were merchants and their display of material goods was a display of wealth and power to the world.  The Venetian’s were a major power and this display of rich colour in the fabrics and jewels in the art works was a sign of that power particularly considering that it was the Venetian trade links that brought exotic pigments from the east and oil painting from Northern Europe in the mid to late 15th century.  
  • On the subject of oil painting my tutor asked me to think about how the Venetian Renaissance artists capitalized on the medium of oil paint – in short egg tempera was fast drying whilst oil paints were much slower and could be built up layer by layer.  The translucency of the oil paints enabled the painters to achieve rich tones and depth with the layers reflecting light which the Venetian’s used to great advantage.
  • A further suggestion was to think about the Mannerist style – it has been called the antithesis of naturalism and was in response to the idealistic naturalism of the Renaissance.  UPDATE:  January 2017 – The style and technique were more important that the subject matter so many figures are seen in unnatural and complex poses and continuously refined form and concepts.   I find the exaggerations of the style that are pushed to the very limit hard to comprehend because of the different scales or un-natural colours but can understand how, as my tutor pointed out, the patrons and the art collectors sought out these new expressive works – effectively the fashionable pieces of the time, the ‘must-haves’ that as my tutor states showed their artistic knowledge and religious understanding as well as their taste.  My tutor also draws my attention to the contextualization of the artistic changes during this era and the theory that finds correlations between social and artistic upheaval – there can be no doubt that this was a time of great upheaval not just due to the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter Reformation but also due to such events as the Black Death.  Artistically it was a time of great innovation and solving of problems such as the use of light as a defining feature and the aforesaid development in oil painting which combined with the social and political upheavals does bring the question as to whether these factors created this new style of painting as a form of expression – did the Mannerist painters want to exaggerate their figures, colours and scales to reflect this upheaval?  I certainly feel that having come to the end of the course and I reflect on this question that it is a distinct possibility that there is this correlation between the artistic and social factors in the style.  I also have to consider how Artemisia’s father, Orazio Gentileschi, who was a Mannerist painter was intent on impressing his patrons with his show of skill and use of colour and question or whether it was the patron who requested new innovative styling for the work they commissioned.

17th CENTURY:

POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL FACTORS

Rise of Dutch republic coincided with end of 30 Years’ war and decline of Spain – prosperity founded on free enterprise.  Great advances in sciences and mathematics. Rome became great artistic centre. Carraci organised meetings of artists which freed them from the study – first art academy founded Florence 1563. Dutch republic was were freedom of speculation could be practiced. 7 United Provinces renounced allegiance to Phillip II and recognised as independent in 1609. Calvinism was overriding religion but others tolerated. Dutch republic surrounded by state with economies based on trade/commerce rather than agriculture. Aristocracy replaced by upper classes consisting of bankers/merchants/manufacturers. Easel painting contributed to Dutch economy. Close cultural links with England and France although twice at war. Jean-Baptiste Colbert reformed Parisian Academy to extent most thorough teaching practices ever devised.

CHANGE TO STATUS OR TRAINING OF ARTISTS

Art dealing/collecting grew alongside art academies – easel painting of prime importance. Some artists including Velazquez became court painters due to the patronage of ruling kinds/queens – also Rubens and Anthony van dyke (latter was court painter to Charles I of England). Artists wanted their work to be seen as liberal art due to the practical advantages of exemption from taxes and military service but also due to the exulted status in society it conferred – Velazquez was knighted – Jan Vermeer possibly also tried to attain liberal status as Dutch as well as Spanish artists were trying to separate themselves from the crafts guilds and have their work and status recognized.  Art changed to suit the patrons – landscapes and easel paintings popular with the middle class households. Towards end of 17th Century voices start to react against the Parisian academy and formality and Dutch and Flemish art works began to change path of French art and therefore its artists.

DEVELOPMENT OF MATERIALS AND PROCESSES

Rubens used colour and light not line in final composition of works – due to his use of sketching his assistants could take over works until final stages and hence studio became factory-like. Bernini developed technique of carving on portrait busts so presence of whole body felt – also his use of colour in St Peter’s in Rome was unprecedented. Borromini’s innovative intersecting equilateral triangles/circles for S Ivo della Sapienza resulted in spatial united without intervening elements. Claude Gelle used sketchbook extensively to observe differing lights in nature – idealized scenes with reality from close observation. Jan Vermeer – created luminosity by optical experiments but also by observation of colours. Use of colours and light developed in almost all artists – chiaroscuro technique also developed with expressions and contrapposto poses.

STYLES AND MOVEMENTS

Annibale Carraci – new idealistic/illusionistic style. Caravaggio – naturalism that replaced symbolism – Caravaggism spread to Italy, Spain, France, and Netherlands with illuminated figures against dark backgrounds.  Baroque style – created some of greatest artists in Europe with its use of arcs and spirals in rhythm. Easel painting – movement in itself and one developed through demand by collectors. Classical landscape developed by Claude Gellee – one of highest art forms and independent genre – Classical Golden Age.  Frans Hals effectively founded Dutch school of painting and his skill in portraiture.  Still life genre developed in demand for easel art – Rachel Ruysch first female artist to gain international reputation with specialism in flower pieces. Louis XIV style – Baroque style but flamboyant and rich in excess.

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE INFLUENCES

Antique sculpture/High Renaissance/Venetian artists including Titian. Influence of Italian artists on Flemish painters including Rubens. Patronage of the courts – direct influence on Titian. Italian masters influenced 17th Century artists. Nature. Caravaggio influenced artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi. Artists generally influenced one another! Religious influence and spirituality. Design of Versaille almost certainly influenced Sir Christopher Wren’s redesign for Hampton Court Palace.

CRITICS, THINKERS AND HISTORIANS

Rene Descartes – Discourse on Method. Karel von Mander wrote of Caravaggio works in Rome. Giovanni Pietro Bellori – influential art theorist – claimed Carraci rescued art from the Mannerists. Annibale Carraci – works provided basis for all academic teaching for next 2 centuries. Francisco Pacheco – most important art writer of 17th Century plus inspector of art for the Inquisition of Seville. Constantijn Huygens – Calvanist. Samuel van Hoogstraten – art theorist and painter. Charles-Alphonse Dufresnoy , Charles Lebrun and Andrew Felibien – all wrote treatise that followed on from Bellori.

TUTOR NOTES:

For these notes I quote directly from my tutor report:

  • “Try to outline the context of seventeenth-century art by answering either of the following questions:  ‘How is Baroque painting distinct from that of the Renaissance?’ or ‘How is Baroque art related to that of the Renaissance?’ This should enable you to review concepts and elements (i.e. chiaroscuro, gestures, etc.) that you have already learned and help you to understand variants of them in the art of the Baroque (i.e. tenebrism, extreme emotion, etc.). I answered this in my tutor feedback with honesty – one is considerably more elaborate than the other and the other (Renaissance) is more elegant and beautiful).  UPDATE  January 2017:  I appreciate my response is very simplified and personal but I have come to appreciate the elaboration of the chiaroscuro in terms of the the Baroque style through my consequential studies of Artemisia Gentileschi and also the elaboration of the subjects which were directly affected by the Counter Reformation – in this I mean that the church required almost a more direct message and hence the works had considerably more emotion and use of tenebrism with its dramatic light and dark contrasts.
  • Building on your earlier material on the Counter Reformation, can you say a bit more about how the religious art of this period is associated with the notion of persuasion? The simple fact is that the works of art had to get across the message of the Counter Reformation and in doing so were dramatic and full of emotion to persuade the people that the Church was righteous.
  • In order to show that you under the relevance of Baroque art to contemporary practice, you might like to view examples that offer compelling reinterpretations or re-appropriations of the Baroque. E.g. look at Bill Viola’s The Quintet of the Astonished (2000). ” UPDATE: JANUARY 2017 –  This piece was apparently commissioned by the National Gallery and inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’s art work which has Christ surrounded by 4 executioners.  The actors in this dramatic and slow motion video, which was originally shot in high speed, show the intensity of emotion and the relationships between them and is reminiscent of the highly intensified emotions of the Baroque era religious art.   

I did struggle a little with understanding the technicalities of Baroque and as I review my tutor notes now it is interesting to think about those questions and I have no doubt my interest in the period will now continue.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2017. Mannerism [online].  [Date Accessed:  January 2017].  Available from:  https://www.britannica.com/art/Mannerism

Fleming, J and Honour, H. 1984. A World History of Art. Seventh Edition. London.  Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Khan Academy.2016.  Venetian Art, an introduction [online].  [Date Accessed:  January 2017].  Available from:  https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/renaissance-venice/venice-early-ren/a/venetian-art-an-introduction

National Gallery of Australia. 2017.  Bill Viola, The Passions [online]. [Date Accessed: January 2017].  Available from: http://nga.gov.au/viola/passions.cfm

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