Gothic Painters

Major Gothic Painters

Hieronymus Bosch

 Matthias Grünewald

 Albrecht Dürer

 Lucas Cranach

Hans Holbein

Duccio di Buoninsegna 

Coppo di Marcovaldo

Pietro Lorenzetti

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Giotto di Bondone

Lippo Memmi

Simone Martini

Taddeo di Bartolo

Origin of The Gothic Era
The word Gothic comes from the word "Goth". The Goths were fifth-century Teutonic invaders who were looked upon as vicious barbarians.  According to noted historian, Hendrik van Loon "It means something “uncouth” and “barbaric"–something which one might expect from an “uncivilised Goth,” a rough backwoods-man who had no respect for the established rules of classical art and who built his “modern horrors” to please his own low tastes without a decent regard for the examples of the Forum and the Acropolis."
The Gothic style of painting started in the 12th century.  Early Gothic art was characterized by great attention to detail,  intensely vivid colour and elaborate religious symbolism.
 The Virgin Mary and Christ changed from the Byzantine iconic form to a more forgiving and approachable figure. The paintings were darkly mystical, infused with an ethereal emotional intensity. Above all Gothic painters were storytellers, narrating both Biblical and secular stories and legends.  Altarpieces,  portraits and sculptures were meticulously executed, with the concern for perfection typical of the Gothic tradition.
Gothic Painters
Europe was trying to put the memory of the "dark ages" behind it and move on to a more enlightened era. Barbarians no longer ran rough shod, putting entire villages to the torch and slaughtering the local peasants.  Without the constant fear of invasion, art and architecture found fertile ground to grow. Gothic painters were not simply anonymous lowly craftsmen, but well respected professionals. They were held in high esteem and often interacted with clergy and wealthy patrons. The Gothic style is a mystical, narrative style of painting.
 Life in the Gothic Era
In the Gothic Era, people concentrated mainly on the church, God, and personal salvation.  Hendrik van Loon states "As a child, you visited the Church to learn the holy stories of the Scriptures. Later on you became a member of the congregation, and if you were rich enough you built yourself a separate little chapel sacred to the memory of the Patron Saint of your own family. As for the sacred edifice, it was open at all hours of the day and many of the night. In a certain sense it resembled a modern club, dedicated to all the inhabitants of the town. In the church you very likely caught a first glimpse of the girl who was to become your bride at a great ceremony before the High Altar." Life in Medieval Europe was primitive and far more difficult than that of Imperial Rome. The Average life expectancy was only 30.  Christianity provided an ethical element lacking in previous cultures.
In a society of almost complete illiteracy, constant outbreaks of plague, smallpox, leprosy, and the ever present threat of starvation, the beauty of art and architecture was a true sanctuary. All aspects of society was dominated by a single, rigid,  all-knowing religion.  People who did not conform were accused of sorcery or thought to be possessed by the devil and often burned at the stake for "their own good".  Crimes of all kinds were delt  with harsh punishments. Alleged felons were put to trial by ordeal. One ordeal involved drinking molten copper or removing an apple from a starving bears mouth. If your throat blisters and burns or your hand is chewed off you are pronounced guilty. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, you might have your feet cut off, blinded by a sharpened stick or simply hanged. The law was unforgiving. The average peasant was overcome with devotion and wonderment upon entering the local church and seeing a magnificent altarpiece or statue. The beauty of art was the only sanctuary in an otherwise merciless life.
 The mysticism of the Gothic period imparts a sense of uniqueness and wonder to art. Painters from this time period had a taste for the supernatural and their use of religious iconography are mysterious hints and glances into the shadowy religious world that lay behind the grinding reality of the times.  The style is distinct and clearly different from the heavy Renaissance art produced in in later generation. 

 Key Descriptive Words  and Phrases associated with this period -   development of oil painting, spiky architectural features, illuminator, linear compositions,  scriptorium, black death, Manuscript Illumination,  miracle stories,  spiritually significant,  monastic values,  International Gothic, High Gothic, Late Gothic , idealized biblical themes,  Old Testament stories, religious intensity, soaring spaces, Gospel parables,   Christian symbolism, International Style

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References - The Story of Mankind b Hendrik van Loon