The Protestant Reformation and its impact on Art Essay

Published: 2021-09-11 19:55:09
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In the sixteenth century the Protestant Reformation took place in Northern Europe and put an end to the unity of the Roman Catholic Church. This movement started when a man by the name of Martin Luther got frustrated with what was going on around him such as corrupt practices and posted his 95 Theses on the church door. The 95 Theses was a list of his complaints against the Catholic Church. He took this extreme measure after noticing the practice of church officials selling indulgences in order to raise money for artistic commission.
Indulgences were purchased by common everyday people from church officials and they basically allowed those who were sinful to pay their way into heaven. Martin Luther strongly felt that this was wrong and not what God or Jesus intended. The church asked him to take back his 95 Theses but he refused. Luther then questioned the churchs authority to grant salvation because he strongly believed that human salvation should be based solely on an individuals faith. Luther also believed that everyone should be able to read and interpret the bible on their own therefore he translated the bible making this possible.
Lastly Luther disapproved of the Churchs use of art due to it being materialistic. Luther was eventually excommunicated from the Church in 1520. He then came up with the Protestant Reformation and challenged the Catholic Church. Due to the invention of the printing press, Luther’s reforms were quickly spread through Europe bringing much support from his followers. Art during the Protestant Reformation was limited and close to even being banned due to the idea of iconoclasm. Protestant reformers rejected the use of visual arts in the church hence they did not even have many churches.
Protestants were so severe in their beliefs that stained glass windows were broken, images of the saints were destroyed and pipe organs were removed from the churches. The only reason they used art was to teach the ideas of the Protestant Reformation, hence the subject matter was based on daily life and events. For example there were paintings of people during that time and it was mostly unrelated to religion. Albrecht Durer was a German artist from this time period. He was a follower of the Protestant beliefs which is clearly shown in his piece The Four Apostles.
In this painting, two figures, John the Evangelist and Saint Peter, are shown reading the Bible. This is representative of the Protestant ideal of getting common everyday people to read the Bible. There is also an inscription on the bottom of this piece stating that people should be aware of those prophets who fallaciously attempt to teach from the bible. Likewise another major work of art produced during the Protestant Reformation is the piece Christ Blessing, Surrounded by a donor and his family (Triptych of a Protestant family) by Ludger Tom Ring.
This piece was produced in between 1575 and 1580 and it was painted as oil on wood on a central panel. Its dimensions are 31 3/8 by 37 and 5/8 inches with each wing being 32 by 14 and 5/8. It is currently located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This painting is a triptych meaning it is a three piece panel and this dates back to the Flemish period. During the Flemish period many artistic techniques were discovered such as the oil medium, the use of disguised symbolism, and humanism. Using an oil medium was an efficient procedure in art because it brought the painting to life and made it look more realistic.
The usage of disguised symbolism was a way for artists to include various everyday objects in their artwork while giving their piece a deeper meaning with these objects. Lastly humanism was also carried on from the Flemish time period to the Protestant Reformation because it brought heavenly figures down to earth and allowed person to relate to them which was a major ideal of the Reformation. In this middle ground Christ is standing behind a table surrounded by a devout family from Westphalia. This family seems to consist of a father, mother, two sons, and a daughter.
This painting possibly depicts the wedding of the thirty three year old son to the eighteen year old girl. The family as a whole has not been identified but they are painted in close proximity to Christ indicating that they were Protestant since Catholics would not have been allowed to be depicted as having such a familiar relationship with Christ. The people in the painting are extravagantly dressed indicating that it is an important occasion. The women are dressed in black and gold dresses and wearing lavish necklaces and the men are wearing fur like coats.
In the foreground there are many objects in the piece which serve as disguised symbolism. On the table below Christ there are flowers scattered across and a bible on the left side underneath the mans hand. The flowers symbolize themes of a wedding such as love, commitment, faith, and fertility. The Bible is a symbol that it is read on a daily basis in this specific home. In the background on the wall, there are hangings which are different texts from the Gospel of Saint John and Psalms.
This piece of art and many others during this time period was clearly an emphasis upon literacy of the bible which reflects Luthers teachings during the Protestant Reformation. Luthers final goal was to have individuals read and interpret the Bible for themselves rather than depend on a clergyman. As a result the Protestant Reformation removed public art from religion as they moved towards a more secular style of art which embraced the concept of glorifying God through the portrayal of the natural beauty of His creation and by depicting people who were created in His image.
The Counter Reformation and its impact on art Following the Protestant Reformation the Counter Reformation was initiated by the Roman Catholic Church as a response to the threat of the Protestant Reformation and iconoclasm. Art during this time followed several guidelines such as greater clarity, realism, emotional drama, dogmatic instruction, and the avoidance of genital nudity. Biblical subjects were supposed to show maximal faithfulness to the Bible and to Christian history, avoiding legendary saints and events invented in the middle ages.
The Baroque style of art emerged from this reformation in which art was a synthesis between classical idealism and naturalistic detail along with the use of intense drama, emotion, and action. To deal with the challenges of the reformation, Pope Paul III convened a church council which met on and off for twenty two years (1545  1563). The result of this council was several reforms such as prohibition of the sale of indulgences. Art was highly regulated to the point where it had become strictly religious art. They wanted art to tell religious art.
They wanted art to tell religious stories while at the same time bringing it back to the church. Following the Council of Trent, the Jesuit order was founded by Ignatius of Loyala. The Jesuits emerged as the leading edge during this movement because they raveled all over the world exposing Catholicism to as many people possible. Ignatius of Loyala even wrote a book named Spiritual Exercises designed to bring people closer to God and be religiously satisfied. The Council of Trent wanted to also regulate art therefore establishing the Inquisition.
One of the major works attacked by the Inquisition was Paolo Veroneses Lasy Supper. His piece was not accepted because it made a significant biblical story into a joke. This trial between the court and Veronese indicated the regain of some power and the Catholic Churchs improvement. The Counter Reformation fostered a new Catholic visual piety rooted in images which were grand, powerful, heroic, emotionally affective and ornate. The subject matter during this period included depictions of miracles, martyrdoms and a theatrical representation of religious conversion and ecstasy.
Nudity in church was decorously covered but Catholic artists still bent the rules by representing decorously clothed religious bodies in a sensual manner. Counter Reformation art sought minimal emotional impact through detail and dramatic figures and composition. Even though nudes were largely eliminated, it was still intensely physical. This can be seen in Baldacchino Berninis piece Ecstasy of St. Theresa. This masterpiece was a combination of drama, action, and sculpture in order to create the effect of a theatrical view. Teresa is clothed from head to foot in a loose hooded garment.
Her feet are bare, her eyes are shut, her mouth opened, as she is in a moment of ecstasy. Standing before her is the figure of an angel. His garment hangs on one shoulder, thus exposing his arms and his upper body. In his right hand he holds an arrow that is pointed at the heart of Teresa. This painting was created in order to show people how great Catholicism was and it attempted to bring people back into the religion. Similarly Christ on the Cross adored by donors by Domenikos Theotokopolus known as El Greco represented the ideals of Counter Reformation. It is painted as a oil on canvas.
This painting displays many attributes of the time period including a religious subject matter and the use of mannerism. The mood depicted in the piece is gloomy which a typical mood for this particular narrative. The clouds are dark and tumultuous make it seem like it is going to rain any second. Jesus Christ has been crucified on a cross and is waiting to die. He is in the middle ground of this piece. On the foreground, two figures are seen below of the foot of the cross. Usually these two figures are identified as the Virgin Mary and Saint John but in this piece the two figures serve as El Grecos equals.
Mannerism mirrors the religious anxiety and political confusion resulting from the Protestant Reformation and the weakened authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Mannerism is used in this painting as Christs body is twisted. The colors used are cool colors and include dark blue, green, gray, and white. The usage of shadow and light represent the scenes dramatic mood. In conclusion art during the Counter Reformation had one major goal and that was to show people the benefits of being Catholic and bringing them back into believing in its ideals.
During the Counter Reformation baroque art was discovered and it represented a response on the part of the Roman Catholic Church to the many cultural movements that made new forms of religion Romanticism and its impact on art Man is born free but is everywhere in chains (Rousseau, Gardner 329). The quote is mainly the basic concept of a period known as Romanticism. Romanticism was a style of art and an approach to life that emphasized human feeling and imagination. It emerged in the later part of the eighteenth century.
Its subject matter is chiefly the imagination, emotions, nature, and the individual which it presented in a fantastic, passionate, and poetic way. Romanticism also came to signify the departure from classical forms and an emphasis on emotional and spiritual themes. It was a response to the French Revolution and the Enlightenment which at the time was in a chaotic state. This art period was a complete shift from Neoclassicism. Neoclassicism was a period of art which focused on reason, clarity, accuracy, and it was carefully planned out whereas Romanticism focused on feelings, emotions, loose brushstrokes, and expressions.
It was also based off the idea of freedom and the everyday desire to have it. Romanticists believed freedom should be granted in everything including political freedom, religious freedom, and freedom of speech. The main points of Romanticism was individual freedom meaning that people should be allowed to think the way they want to and to be able to use their imagination as freely as they can. Art during Romanticism was loosely painted, intuitive, spontaneous, and it captured the passion of music.
Romantic themes also know as subject matter consisted of dreams and imagination, themes from literature, exotic themes with mysterious people and places. It also focused on the good side as well as the bad side of humans contrasting with the neoclassical preoccupation with virtue and the man of reason. Major artists during the Romantic period are Francis de Goya and Jean Louis Andre Theodore Gericault. In Goyas Third of May, he painted an event that took place on the third of May where it symbolizes a person being the victim during a war. It shows the extremes of human brutality.
Observation of this piece arouses sympathy in our heart for the helpless man who is facing death. The man in the white shirt is sacrificing himself thus embodying Jesus Christ. The dark sky in the background is sad and gloomy, and a palace looks lifeless and has lost all its magnificence. The only illumination in the painting comes from a lantern at the feet of the soldiers. The artwork Evening: Landscape with an aqueduct by Jean Louis Andre Theodore Gericault is a prime example of Romantic art. It was painted as an oil on canvas and was painted in 1818.
It is one of the four paintings representing the four different times of the day: Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night. The mood depicted in this work is calm and peaceful. It seems as if Gericault chose to ignore what was going on around him at the time and intended to give his viewers a moment of escape for even a brief second. By painting this piece, Gericault turned a blind eye towards the actual political upheavals around him and painted this scene of what he wished the world would be like. The colors in this painting are bold, suggesting a theme of tranquility or the time being until interrupted by society.
In this work, Gericault focuses on nature and its relation to man. This landscape painting is a pastoral scene that shows off the immense quality of nature. It is a calm, dreamy setting in the countryside which brings the peasants away from their hard work and labor to a feeling of peace and relaxation. In the foreground of the piece, two peasants can be seen, a man sitting on the rocks right above and next to the lake and an elderly woman wearing a bright red bandana on her head crouching over to converse with him. This shows the quality of life for the peasants during that time period.
Work for them in the rural area was hard and is evident in the way the old woman is holding onto a stick in her attempt to stand. Right behind the two peasants a number of nude figures can be seen, some swimming in the lake and the rest is attempting to join them. This shows that despite the chaotic upheaval at the time, people during that time period can still enjoy themselves to escape their thoughts of hard work and labor. Beyond the peasants the artist includes a bridge in the middle of the piece suggesting the gap between a peasants working life and leisure time.
Over the bridge, several houses can be seen and that is most likely where responsibility overcomes everything else a peasant desires to do. Based on the two works, Goyas Third of May and Gericaults Evening: landscape with an aqueduct; Romanticism can be concluded as a style of art which focuses on the many aspects of human emotions and imaginations. It was a complete break from classical art and it takes its viewer into a whole new world. Romanticism started the whole idea of the freedom in art, and allowed future artists to paint as they pleased hence the movements of realism and impressionism.

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