Celtic Art

Celtic art (kĕl´tĬk, sĕl´–). The earliest clearly Celtic style in art was developed in S Germany and E France by tribal artisans of the mid- to late 5th cent. BC With the dispersal of Celtic tribes during the next five centuries, their characteristically sophisticated designs were spread throughout Europe and the British Isles. Although some classical influence was evident in Celtic work, most of the complex, linear, highly ornamented pieces that survive reveal an inspiration of great originality and power. Stylized and fantastic plant and animal forms, as well as strong, geometrical, intertwining patterns, decorated the surfaces of household and ritual vessels, weapons, and body ornaments. The principal materials used in the surviving pieces of metalwork, most numerous of the remains, are gold and bronze. Some painted ceramics and enamel work survive as well from the early period. Frequently, Greek-inspired arabesque motifs were modeled in low relief. Artisans of the British Isles adapted Celtic design in the 3d cent. BC, producing distinctive, vigorous works that soon owed little to Continental originals. Asymmetrical line engraving gained ascendancy in the 1st cent. BC for decorated weaponry and utensils. Two hundred years later Roman influence had effectively overwhelmed Celtic styles, although typical motifs were retained well into the medieval period. Numerous first-rate examples of Celtic craftsmanship may be seen at the British Museum.

See E. M. Jope and P. Jacobsthal, Early Celtic Art (2 vol., 1989); R. and V. Megaw, Celtic Art: From Its Beginnings to the Book of Kells (1989); F. Muller, Art of the Celts, 700 BC to AD 700 (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Celtic Art: Selected full-text books and articles

The Ancient Celts
Barry Cunliffe.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art
Miranda Green.
Routledge, 1992
The Art of Roman Britain
Martin Henig.
Routledge, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. One "The Art of the Celts"
The Book of Kells
Edward Sullivan.
Studio Publications, 1952 (5th edition)
Celtic Creatures - A Bestiary of Ancient Ireland
Harvey, Steenie.
The World and I, Vol. 15, No. 6, June 2000
FREE! Ancient Britain and the Invasions of Julius Caesar
T. Rice Holmes.
Clarendon Press, 1907
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "The Early Iron Age"
Roman Britain and the English Settlements
R. G. Collingwood; J. N. L. Myres.
Biblo and Tannen, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XV "Art"
Animals in Celtic Life and Myth
Miranda Green.
Routledge, 1998
The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Traditions: A Study in Modern Legend Making
Wood, Juliette.
Folklore, Vol. 109, Annual 1998
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions
H. R. Ellis Davidson.
Syracuse University Press, 1988
The Celts
Sabatino Moscati; Otto Hermann Frey; Venceslas Kruta; Barry Raftery; Miklós Szabó.
Rizzoli, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "Celtic Art" begins on p. 25
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