The Late Gothic Art Period

The late Gothic period of art represents a bridge from Middle Age period to Renaissance, which ran from 14th century to 15th century (Frisch, 1987). This means that the period came after the middle Ages and slightly before the Renaissance. The crusades that came after late Gothic brought in Byzantine art and several artists to Western Europeans. As much as the artists in late Gothic period tried to identify themselves with Byzantine styles, they became more western in their treatment. This led to more literary works involving classical antiquity to be brought to the West. The new age featured in the 14th century with the imitation of ancient Latin style by lawyers and notaries who studied Roman archaeology.

The first artist to feature in this art period was Jean Fouquet who was a renowned French painter. His effect was felt and seen between 1420 and 1481; therefore his work was limited to the 15th century (Fouquet, 1954). He was a pioneer of manuscript illumination as well as panel painting. Moreover, he was the first artist from French to have visited Italy to experience the early Italian renaissance at first hand. Jean’s work started with the execution of Pope Eugene IV’s portrait in 1447 and who died in the same year. In an attempt to retain his French sentiment, Jean grafted the Tuscan style elements that he had acquired in Italy. Back in France, he worked in the court including King Charles VII, Chevalier and Chancellor Guillaume. Towards the end of his occupation, he became a prominent court painter to King Louis XI. Fouquet’s most important paintings were Melun Diptych, which featured in 1450. The left wing represented Chevalier and his patron saint Stephen while the right wing depicted a pale virgin and child that are surrounded by blue and red angels. The virgin was later recognized as Agnes Sorel’s portrait. His self-portrait that is perceived by historians to be in the National Gallery would be the earliest sole self-portrait existence in the Western art. His illuminated books as well as miniatures are witnessed to date.

The second artist featured in this period of art was Jan Van Eyck who was a Flemish painter, the most successful Northern European painter in the 15th century (Dhanens, 1980). There is no basic information concerning his date or place of birth and his first life records come from The Hague court between 1422 and 1424. His date of birth is perceived to be around 1390 judging from his self-portrait I the National Gallery. He was later believed to have been born in Maesheyck in the late 1500. This claim is based on the fact that his name translates as ‘of Eyck’. He is also linked to Hubert van Eyck as his brother and peer since both were believed to originate from a town in Belgium. One of his famous works, Ghent Altarpiece, is perceived to be a product of the two brothers, which was began by Hubert in 1420 and completed in the year 1432. Eyck entered the famous service of Duke Philip of Burgundy while residing in Lille and before moving to Bruges where he stayed until his death in 1441. He was sent to many places to represent the Duke and worked on various projects, which dominated in his life more than painting. This was with the exception of two portraits depicting Isabella of Portugal, which he painted in the behest of Philip as a way of asking her hand. He became the highly paid painter of his time as bonuses were added to the basic salary. The Duke was quoted in a document having scolded his treasurers for delaying Eyck’s payments arguing that if he left, it would be difficult to find an equal replacement. Eyck also provided paintings for private clients, which he signed and dated.

The third painter in the Late Gothic period of art was Conrad Witz who was a German-born painter. He was active in Basel in the year 1446 and earlier in Rottweil between 1400 and 1410 (Landolt, 1968). Witz has been recognized for his famous three altarpieces all of which survived only partially. The earliest altarpiece was that of Heilspiegel, which was created in 1435. The second one was associated with panels in Basel and was named the Altarpiece of the Virgin. It was designed in the year 1440. The third altarpiece was created in 1444 and was called St. Peter Altarpiece painted for St. Peter’s Cathedral in Geneva. Witz became the first artist in Germany to show the influence of Netherlands’ art as well as one of the earliest European artists who incorporated realistic landscapes in their religious paintings.

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