The International Gothic or Late Gothic art period covers the 13th – 14th centuries and came during a time of religious upheaval and political change. The Christian church was witnessing the growth of Protestantism with its new fangled ideas and the establishment of City States. These too had their own, personal, political agendas and particular allegiances. Very much like the world of today.
The growth of the merchant class provided a challenge to the financial muscle of the church and Europe’s royalty.
These nouveau riche still wanted art on a more personal level but art that reflected their view of the world. It wasn’t burdened by outdated dictate and accurately reflected the people of the times. The church’s ideals on how and what art should depict was being intellectually challenged. People wanted frescoes and paintings that illustrated real life. Therefore there was an increase in naturalistic imagery and the showing of everyday life.
The artists during this period spent their time rediscovering the ancient ways of showing nature. Perspective, foliage and realistic depiction were once again on the menu. Here current artists played their part in trying to understand how the Greeks and Romans set about doing this.
Suddenly it was possible to paint trees, water, buildings and furniture. Painters could populate their worlds with people and animals, fields and hills. But how? It is interesting to see the artists development of perspective. Each creating strange views with multiple vanishing points, rooms with weird angles and impossible furniture scattered throughout the pictures.
These strange, other worlds, with their experiments at three dimensions provide a unique viewpoint into life during the Late Medieval period. They show the lives of the ordinary people in the fields alongside royalty.
You can see palaces, castles and cathedrals but also simple houses, barns and sheds. As much as you can see wars and battles there are farmers sowing crops and peasants tending sheep.
Giotto di Bondone, Simone Martini, the Lorenzetti brothers in Italy and Conrad von Soest in Germany and the Limbourg brothers from France all played their part in developing the distinctive style of the International Gothic.
This break with the traditions of the Byzantine paved the way for what would become the greatest advances in art with the arrival of the Renaissance. The steps started by the International Gothic would flourish during the next period and set new standards in artistic representation. However, I still find the exploration of the 13th and 14th centuries some of the most compelling works on view.