The Social History of Art - Vol. 2

The Social History of Art - Vol. 2

The Social History of Art - Vol. 2

The Social History of Art - Vol. 2

Excerpt

This rationalism does not remain by any means restricted to Italian art; but in the North it assumes more trivial characteristics than in Italy, it becomes more obvious, more naïve. A typical example of this new conception of art outside Italy is the London Madonna by Robert Campin, in the background of which the upper edge of a fire-screen also serves to form the Virgin's halo. The painter uses a formal coincidence to bring an irrational and unreal element of the picture into conformity with everyday experience, and although he is perhaps just as firmly convinced of the supernatural reality of the halo as he is of the natural reality, of the fire-screen, the mere fact that he thinks he can increase the attraction of his work by the naturalistic motivation of this phenomenon is the sign of a new, although not unheralded, epoch.

THE DEMAND FOR MIDDLE-CLASS AND COURTLY ART IN THE QUATTROCENTO

The art public of the Renaissance consists of the urban middle class and the court society of the residences. The trends of taste represented by these two circles have many points of contact, despite their different origins. On the one hand, the courtly elements of the Gothic style have an after-effect in middle-class art, and with the revival of the chivalric ways of life, which had never entirely lost their powers of attraction on the lower classes, the middle class adopts new forms of art governed by the taste of the courts; on the other hand, court society, too, finds it impossible to keep aloof from the realism and rationalism of the middle class, and it participates in the formation of a conception of the world and of art which . . .

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