We explain what Gothic art is and what its main characteristics are. Also, some examples of famous works, architecture and more.

What is gothic art?

Gothic art is an artistic style that predominated in religious architecture, sculpture, and painting in Europe between the 12th and 15th centuries, until the rise of the Renaissance cultural movement . It was preceded by Romanesque art (11th and 12th centuries).

The basilica of the royal abbey of Saint Denis in France is considered the first listed monument in the Gothic style. It was built from 1140 onwards by Suger, the abbot or superior of that monastery, considered the promoter of Gothic art.

In the beginning, the term Gothic was designated in a derogatory way by the classicist Italian writers of the Renaissance who considered everything that was not classical as ugliness. Gothic art was attributed to the barbarian tribes who had destroyed the Roman Empire and its classical culture of the 5th century AD. Gothic art was only valued from the 19th century AD. C. and was considered grandiloquent and imposing.

Gothic art characteristics

Gothic architecture used novel techniques, such as high vaulted ceilings and arches. Among the main characteristics of Gothic art are:

  • The principle of the aesthetics of light as the foundation of all art . He was able to represent the theocentric idea of the light of God .
  • Its application in religious architecture, such as monasteries and cathedrals.
  • The use of the pointed arch that ended in a pointed shape and generated a sensation of great height. It was applied to domes, doors and windows.
  • The application of innovative architectural techniques that allowed to achieve the unique style of high ceilings, flying buttress arches and extensive stained glass walls.
  • The design of extravagant forms applied both in sculpture and in architectural decoration.
  • The decoration with shiny materials and the use of bright colors, to exacerbate the concept of luminosity.
  • The application of large colored windows that reflected different types of light into the interior of cathedrals and monasteries.

Main Gothic works

Interior of the first Gothic-style basilica, Saint Denis in France. Among the main works of Gothic art, the cathedrals stand out as architectural work par excellence. Among the most representative are:

  • The basilica of the royal abbey of Saint Denis in France .
  • The cathedrals of León, Burgos, Toledo, Gerona, Barcelona and Seville, in Spain .
  • The cathedrals of Cologne and Strasbourg in Germany .
  • The cathedrals of Gloucester, Salisbury and Lincoln, in England .
  • The cathedrals of Chartres and Reims, in France.
  • Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.
  • The cathedral of Santa Maria de las Flores, in Florence and that of Milan, in Italy .

Gothic architecture

The use of the pointed arch allowed a better distribution of the weight of the roofs.
The architecture was the ultimate expression of Gothic art, it was based on the concept of light as the foundation and symbol of divinity . Gothic art was born from the theocentric idea in which God was the center of reality and considered that everything that made up the universe was a reflection of God’s light.

The elements of the period with Gothic aesthetics were symbolic of spirituality. In architecture, the development of new sophisticated techniques was added to exacerbate the theocentric concept, such as:

  • The ribbed vaults: They consisted of a type of roof made up of a system of interlocking vaults that, in turn, were crossed by pointed arches or arches. This system was of support to distribute the weight of the structure towards the pillars.
  • Flying buttresses: They consisted of a half arch built on the outside of the building and supported by the side walls. They were a support guide for the interior vaults.
  • The pointed arch: It consisted of the pointed finish of the windows and doors that accentuated the feeling of height. This architectural ornament was used in geometric contrast and repeatedly towards the interior, that is, towards the limits of the door or windows.
  • The stained glass: They consisted of extensive stained glass walls located in the upper half of the building and contained by a system of columns. The stained glass windows had vivid colors and religious images that reflected the sunlight inward, recreating an emotional and expressionist experience that reinforced the concept of theocentrism.

Gothic sculpture

The sculpture Gothic was characterized by natural representations as perceived in the real world, without applying symbolic meanings as with the architecture and operation of brightness.

Among the main characteristics of Gothic sculpture are:

  • The realism in the figures and body postures that were not as upright or solemn as those of Romanesque art.
  • The expression of feelings of pain, tenderness, empathy, among others, through realism in the expression of gestures.
  • The great level of detail in human representations, both of the body and of the accessories.
  • The use as an ornament of Gothic architecture in columns and mullions (columns that are located in the middle of gates or windows).
  • The use of techniques to recreate the depth of objects and the level of detail.
  • The manifestation of art in the altarpieces (works that are located behind an altar), the miniatures, the tombs and the images of virgins and saints.

Gothic painting

In Gothic painting, the handling of perspective grows, but maintaining the axis of symmetry. The painting Gothic was recognized as such from the fourteenth century. It stood out in religious works to represent Christ, saints, angels and virgins, figures that were used to decorate the imposing architectural constructions. Gothic painting is considered as a representation of the narratives of the Bible and the Gospels.

Among the main characteristics of Gothic painting are:

  • The techniques of fresco murals, panel painting, tempera and oil.
  • The representation of light and the games of backlights that generated the sensation of volume and realism.
  • Improvements in perspective techniques.

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