The Role of Art

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Christina Zevola
May 5, 2009
Professor Strmiska
World History- 1-2pm

The Role of Art

Throughout time each culture in the world has faced its own struggles and reached new heights. Many of these downfalls and achievements have been visible through economics, politics, society, and many more. Despite these, one way in which history will always be expressed is through art, both reserved and artifacts. Through historical paintings, sculptures, and architecture, many religious beliefs, societal events, intellectual understandings, worshiped and disliked rulers, wars, and civilized faults have been and still are being decoded. Art helps us to understand our roots and further expand our knowledge and achievements. A picture is worth a million words and art is a mirror of society. Through the European Middle Ages, Mayan civilization, and European Renaissance, supported art is an expression of the society it was once created in.

As the fall of Rome struck and a newer, more modern world rose amongst those in Western Europe, a new period, the Middle Ages, came about. During this time, the civilization of Rome developed into a unique mixture of both Roman and Germanic institutions. From this, many different cultural arts (Roman art, German art, and even Islamic art) mixed together to create an art more commonly known as Medieval Art. As Medieval Art spread, it divided into several kinds, expressed differently depending on the country it was spotted in. First developed was an art form called Late Antique art. This was more of a Roman style of art (to show the presents of Roman Christians) to some, while being made into more of a German art by others (to show the presents of Germans and Arians). Late Antique art emphasizes the spiritual reality behind its subjects, rather than the beauty and movement of the body. It also modeled the rise of Christianity and the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Instead of expressing art through the use of painting and freestanding sculptures, Late Antique art consisted more of mosaics, architecture, and relief sculptures. This kind of art seemed to be more abstract and dealt with simpler shapes; natural designs were no longer desired or at a high demand amongst society. After the emergence of Late Antique art, came a more popular form of art known as Romanesque art. This blend of German, Roman, and Islamic elements brought new excitement to sculpture, painting, and architecture. Nearly all Romanesque art was supported by Christian themes. After almost six hundred years relief sculpting, the art of monumental sculpting re-emerged in Western Europe. Many Romanesque sculptures depicted mythological monsters such as lizards and gargoyles. Romanesque paintings consisted mainly of large murals on the walls and ceilings of churches. Unfortunately, many of these murals had been destroyed due to dampness in the atmosphere, re-plastering, repainted, war, neglect, changes in fashion, and/or bouts of Reformation iconoclasm. The expansion of Romanesque architecture focused greatly on creating churches which could hold a large number of people. Architects tried to gravitate away from the use of wood ceilings and leaned more toward stone ceilings. Because of the weight of the ceilings, church walls were created very thick to keep the walls from pushing outward. Also, the windows were made small to keep the strength of the walls, resulting in a dim interior. Romanesque art gradually turned into Gothic art around 1100 AD in Italy, and then slowly spread over Europe. Gothic art was highly expressed through architecture and sculptures. Pointed arches made it rather easy to recognize Gothic architecture, along with its expansion in height and a lighter interior due to the walls of glass. Through Gothic sculptures and paintings, more concern for realism and more emotions were expressed. Also, Gothic paintings began to include backgrounds and crowd scenes. It was...
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