Northern Renaissance

1,879 artworks, 63 artists
The Northern Renaissance is the conventional name of the stage in the culture and art development in European countries located north of Italy — the Netherlands, Germany and France. The end of the 15th and 16th centuries became a stormy era of changes for the European countries: religious wars, struggle against the domination of the Catholic Church, the Reformation and the Peasant War in Germany, the bloody confrontation between Catholics and Huguenots in France, the revolution in the Netherlands. On the top of that, the emergence of Gothic motives, tension and feverishness marked the art of that period. At the same time, humanistic ideas spread in European countries, as well as discontent with the fact that education and science were concentrated in church. This formed a “Renaissance worldview”, including interest in ancient culture, ironic perception of Catholic dogmas, and respect for the heritage of the High Renaissance.
The culture of the Renaissance originated in Italy and represented man as the creator of the world, praised the beauty and harmony of the body. The Northern Renaissance grew up 150 years later in the Nordic countries and was based on the traditions of national Gothic art. At the center of the worldview of the artists and sculptors was the deification of nature and the universe, the recognition of man as a small part of this infinity.
The works of the Northern Renaissance were distinguished by Gothic expressiveness and mysticism, the desire of artists for naturalistic depiction of details. The subjects of the works did not resemble the ancient gods; in painting, truthful depiction of subjects prevailed, even if they were ugly or comical. The Northern Renaissance did not seek to glorify heroes, but preached mutual respect, spiritual and religious renewal, social justice, the cult of the “middle man”, family values, and human dignity. The leading genres of painting were panoramic landscapes, genre scenes, still lifes and portraits. During that period, the landscape stood out as a separate style of painting, because nature symbolized the connection with God, harmony and infinity.
Northern Renaissance artists carefully rendered the interior details and the texture of objects. They preferred not tempera, but a new technique of that time — oil painting. At the same time, artists neglected the anatomical details and realism of the depicted subjects. Detail and realism were achieved through well-noticed and subtly rendered lighting effects, which turned Gothic into a “soft” style. The subjects of the paintings were imbued with a harsh spirit of self-restraint and discipline, which symbolized the struggle of people for piety and faith in everyday life.
Significant paintings of the Northern Renaissance:
The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan van Eyck.
The Blind Leading the Blind (1568), Children’s Games (1560) by Pieter Bruegel.
The Garden of Earthly Delights (1500s), Death and the Miser (1490s), Heaven and Hell (1516) by Hieronymus Bosch.
Lamentation of Christ (1500s), Old Woman with a Purse (1507), Albrecht Dürer.
Famous Northern Renaissance artists:
The Netherlands: Jan van Eyck, Hubert van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling. Examples of a later period include the artworks by Bosch and Bruegel, as well as Joachim Patinir, Jan Provoost, Adriaen Isenbrant, Jan van Scorel, Cornelis Engelbrechtsen, Aertgen van Leyden.
Germany: Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, Lucas Cranach Elder, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Holbein, Hans Baldung, Wolf Huber. And also sculptors: T. Riemenschneider, F. Stoss, A. Kraft.
France: Jean Fouquet, Jean Goujon, Jean Clouet, Marc Duval, François Quesnel, François Clouet.