French art: The Gothic Period

The hierarchic austerity characteristic of many Romanesque figures was modified in the period of Gothic architecture and art (12th–15th cent.) by tendencies toward idealization and naturalism. These tendencies are manifest in the sculpture of Reims and Amiens cathedrals, where the figures show greater variety of pose and articulation and are less severely architectonic than those of the preceding Romanesque period. Cathedral architecture gave impetus in the 13th cent. to the development of the art of stained glass, which reached its height in such windows as those of the cathedral at Chartres.

At the same time Paris became a center of miniature painting, in which Italian and Netherlandish innovations were adopted and the observation of natural detail became highly developed. Great patrons of art emerged, and Charles V transformed the Louvre into a treasure house for the government art collections. Toward the end of the Gothic period these influences began to be harmonized in terms of a style marked by a taste for formal simplicity and elegance, such as is revealed in the works of Jean Fouquet.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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