In this lesson, you will compare the very different styles of 15th-century art found across Europe and discover the reasons for these differences. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.
Europe in the 15th Century
Welcome back to this week's episode of 'Know Your Art!', the only game show that compares artistic styles and has no prizes! Alright, contestant, you know how it works. Behind each curtain is a style of art. You'll get to hear a little bit about each style, but pay attention, because at the end, you get to choose the art that called to you the most!
This week, contestant, we are looking at European art of the 15th century. But wait - there's a twist - none of today's art comes from the famed Italian Renaissance! Ooooooooh. That's right, there was other art in Europe during this time, and today you are going to get a chance to Know! That! Art!
Art of Flanders
Alright, contestant, behind curtain number one is your first style of art. Here all the way from Flanders, modern-day Belgium, this style will bring out your inner neat-freak. Flemish art is all about detail, just look at the intricacies of Rogier van der Weyden's Descent from the Cross!
Hope oil isn't a problem for you, because Flemish painters relied on oil paints to create this level of detail. But if you like your art deep, Flemish painting always has something to offer. These religious paintings are full of symbolism, hidden in daily objects to encourage personal reflection on the Gospels. But don't worry, this art has a sense of fashion, too! You can thank the lucrative cloth trade for bringing so much wealth to Flanders and sponsoring the rise of art in the 15th century.
Art of Germany
For the avid reader, I think curtain number two may have some nice surprises! This is the art of Germany. German art in the 15th century is focused around its major technological innovation - the movable type printing press. That's right; if you like your art printed, German art might just be for you! The movable type makes printing more affordable, so you won't break the bank on this style.
German printmakers, like Martin Schongauer, developed new styles of making prints, including the use of crisscrossed lines to show depth called cross-hatching, as well as the engraving method that allowed for more details. German prints may be producible on a large scale, but it might be the only style for you.
But wait - there's more! Your next art style is positively medieval but with a modern, 15th-century touch. That's right; it's the art of France. Looking for art with a dangerous side? France is going through the Hundred Years' War, so it's been too busy fighting to create new styles of art. Like Germany, this art is mostly focused around books, but there's no printing press here.
French books are still being made by hand. These are called Illuminated manuscripts, and they were very popular during the Medieval era. Some people think that they're out of date, but France knows anything old can be made new. Artists like the Limbourg Brothers brought a greater level of natural space to manuscript art, while still respecting their medieval attitudes.
Okay, contestant, this last art is for those who really liked that warrior spirit. Say hello to the art of Spain. Think France's Hundred Years' War is impressive? Spain's been at war for almost 800 years, fighting the Reconquista to reclaim the Iberian peninsula from Islamic forces who invaded centuries ago.
Can't make up your mind about art? Neither can Spain! With such a military focus, Spanish art didn't develop a distinct characteristic until much later; instead, blending styles of Medieval Spain, Renaissance Italy, and Northern Europe. But this military style has a soft side, too, and for the devout Catholic, can offer a deep religious commitment.
Okay, contestant, these are your styles of 15th-century Europe! Will you choose the art of Flanders? Flemish art is characterized by a personal religious attitude, high attention to detail and a deep level of symbolism, all a result of new uses of oil paint. Option number two was Germany. German art is notable for innovations in printmaking, including cross-hatching and more detailed engraving.
Perhaps you're interested in the art of France? French art maintains medieval traditions of illuminated manuscripts but strives for a more realistic sense of space. Finally, we met the art of Spain. Spanish art is a mixture of traditions, including those of medieval Spain, Renaissance Italy, and Northern Europe, as this fighting culture was wrapped up in the almost 800-year fight to reclaim Spain from Islamic armies, called the Reconquista. There you go, contestant, your art styles of 15th-century Europe. So, now, the choice is up to you.
Following this lesson, you should be able to:
- Describe the styles of Flemish, German, French and Spanish art in the 15th century
- Recall how war affected French and Spanish art