Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Protestant Influence Over 16th Century Art

The split of the Church during the 16th century in Northern Europe led to the creation of the Protestants against the Catholics and it also led to a reformation in both the designated religion and its use of art. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Protestants focused more on the individual access to redemption through God's grace. Salvation is only rewarded if one has absolute faith in Christ. Moreover, the Bible was only the truthful source that a follower could trust; no more priests interfering with their relationship to God.

The Protestants, therefore, took the advantage of the printed press to use woodcut prints as a medium to spread out its values and beliefs to the world. People would use these prints to devote their faith to the Protestant religion. These prints focused more on Christ and its role to lead salvation. On the other hand, Protestants did not expand their use of art to churches, for they believed that images planted on the church could distract the people of faith from the real reason for their presence in church; their only concern was to communicate directly with God and not through worshiped images. Architecture was also changed by the Protestant influence. Buildings were built containing three horizontal levels, double-columned pavilions, tall and wide windows, and finally a touch of Gothic architecture. Statues were also influenced by the art of Mannerism; they pertained the Greek and Roman motifs such as the flowing and clinging drapery for the statues.

The elimination of large-scale altar pieces and religious works due to the Protestant belief, made artists derive their subjects from religious imagery to the society; its common people and nobility. They focused on painting their activities and values. Artists were able to emphasize the importance of having a personal relationship with God by painting common people focusing more in the meaning of their relationship to God than their problems and attachments to the material world. Moreover, they were also criticized by painting them doing sinful activities that the bible condemns and warns to keep their personal faith in balance.

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