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Art and
architecture
STYLES IN WESTERN SCULPTURE

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Romanesque

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Note the fairly stylized and lifeless Romanesque Madonna.

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Art and artists

9-12th

Gothic

Now compare the equally stylized but far more spiritualized Gothic one.

12-16 C

Baroque

Now look at the flowery Baroque Madonna with its rich garments and halo. Here the art conveys a sense of riches in a voluptuous all too worldly sense

16-18th

Neo-classical

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the ideal of womanhood changes from the religious Mary to an attractive secular woman. At the same time the ideal of motherhood changes from the portrayal of Mary with her son, the baby Jesus, to a mother welcoming the return of her son from battle. Such scenes are found on many war memorials and national monuments in the 19 C.

C19 C

A major change in the choice of subjects by artists takes place and Christian themes, which until the mid-18 C continue to dominate artistic creations, suddenly become conspicuous by their absence. This change in terms of “master problems” is discussed by Hans Sedlmayer in Art in Crisis [1957] and Hans Rookmaaker in Modern Art and the Death of a Culture [1970]. Our next examples illustrate both the differences between artistic styles and the way dominant artistic themes change from religious to purely secular, and often highly nationalistic art in the neo-Classical era.

The first three sculptures on the left above clearly depict Mary, the mother of Jesus. The fourth is G. Schadow’s bust of Marianne Schlegel made in the early 19 C. This bust has been juxtaposed with the statues of Mary to illustrate the drastic change in both style and content of late 18th and 19 C art.Now look carefully at the final sculpture on the right from a 19th C frieze depicting a son taking leave of his mother before going off to war to defend the fatherland.

Suddenly, as with the sculpture of Marianne Schlegel above everything is changed and new values are suddenly attributed to motherhood. Thus the pain Mary must suffer when her son dies for the sins of humanity is transformed into the pain of a mother whose son goes off to war for the defense or glory of the fatherland. We have entered modern times where nationalism takes on a fervor once reserved for religion.

     
© Copyright Irving Hexham 2000