Art has gone through many phases throughout history. As times have changed, so have the manner and style of artists and their art. During the Middle Ages, Europe suffered a widespread horrific disease called the Black Death which killed one-fourth to one-third of the population. After the Middle Ages came a period of change called the Renaissance, which means the "rebirth", came to life in Florence and eventually spread throughout the rest of Europe. The Renaissance was reforming many things such as art in general, literature, science, drama, and many more areas of expression. During this period, European citizens turned to artwork as relief from the horrible past experiences such as the Black Death. Symbolic representation in paintings became a thing of the past, as many artists moved to realistic representation. This change in art was caused by a move of scientific worldview of reason, and scientific exploration of the human body. Along with that, many other artistic concepts were introduced such as: chiaroscuro, proportions, pyramid configuration, oil paints, and linear perspective. "The Lamentation" by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and "The Crucifixion and Last Judgment" by JanVan Eyck, both embody many of the new Renaissance art styles which reflect the changing sentiments of European culture.
Born in Maaseick, Limbourg, Jan Van Eyck was known to be the most celebrated painter in fifteenth-century Europe. Although he was credited with inventing painting with oils, which is incorrect, he was the first to use oil paint to his advantage, making 2
illusions of light, vivid oil colors, and microscopic detail. He was known to have perfected this technique. "The Crucifixion and Last Judgment" was painted in the 1430's, and when I saw this painting it caught my eye because of the way he presents it. The painting is split in half; on the left there is "The Crucifixion" and on the right there is "The Last Judgment". The concentration of these paintings all seem to be centered on Christ by using pyramidal composition. Pyramidal composition was the idea that objects are placed on the foreground of the scene and other objects are placed further and further behind, which creates an illusion of depth while drawing the focal point to the center of the paper. After studying the painting it is remarkable how much detail and information he put on the small canvas he had.
"The Crucifixion" was painted to show Jesus and the story of his death. At first glance, it looked to me as if it was a simple painting of Christ being crucified and many people around him simply watching it. As I stood there and tried to examine the finer details, it took me a while because I never actually examined an artwork to this extent. I soon began to see the intricate details Van Eyck made, and how he incorporated some of the new styles that were founded in the Renaissance in his painting. If you look closely, you can see the very detailed castles and structures in the background. I then noticed the cloud formation and the mountains in the horizon. I was amazed at this, because when closely examined it looks completely real. This was made possible by the introduction of linear perspective, one of the most influential advancements made in art. Linear perspective entails making lines converge at a vanishing point, while having objects in the painting appear to retreat in the distance. This creates an illusion of depth, and makes 3
it so there is an illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. One of the last things I saw that I found most impressive was the amount of detail Van Eyck put into the people and animals at the bottom half of "The Crucifixion". As said before, at first glance it only appeared as if many people were gathering around to view Christ's death, and when I first looked I could not make out the expression on their faces. As I looked closer, the expression...