From Renaissance to Rococo: Art in Central Europe
Art majors are provided volumes of information on the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods in Italy, France, England and The Netherlands. However, in sharp contrast, there are mere paragraphs concerning Central Europe.
From time to time, in glossy coffee table books and on travel shows, I would see glimpses of incredible church interiors or stunning palaces with locations as beautiful as the buildings themselves. These were not in Rome or Paris, but in places called Franconia, Admont or Bamberg. University art history- texts offer little concerning either the artwork or artists who created them. Generally overlooked, often only described in text or sparsely photographed, and rarely painted, it is the rediscovery of the rich artistic contributions of Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo Central Europe that I wish to explore and share with others. I have researched and created an eight-week tour of 66 destinations in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. Traveling by Eurailpass to locations, I will sketch and photograph at the sites, and, upon my return, produce ten detailed watercolor paintings of altar pieces, church interiors, or palace grounds experienced on my journey. Completed by the end of the USOAR term, and upon review of my advisors and the provost, I will prepare a gallery showing at Northern Illinois University and/or its satellites. It is my belief that the show will not only offer a vision of a seldom-seen cultural heritage but also encourage other students to enhance their university experience by participating in the USOAR program.
As I began my research regarding Central Europe during the Renaissance and Baroque/Rococo periods, I assumed I would embark on a two-week trip to see a dozen or so buildings, visit several museums, and discover one or two artists or architects of note. This was based on my review of current university-level art history textbooks. While extensive chapters address Italy, France and The Netherlands, little is offered concerning the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods of Central Europe.
As my research continued, I discovered that Central Europe was in fact an integral and vibrant participant in Renaissance and Baroque/Rococo Europe. I was forced to discard the post- war notion that artistic inspiration occurred in Italy, France, and The Netherlands while Central Europe remained in the dark ages.
Not only was Central Europe connected by land to France, Italy and The Netherlands, but it possessed the major European merchant trade routes, including the Rhine and Danube rivers. Intimately involved with the arts, politics and religion of the time, Central Europe was composed of many independent city-states, each with their own merchant centers, churches and palaces. Artists were part of strong art guilds, and Central Europe utilized these artisans as it embraced Renaissance ideals, Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter Reformation. While inspired by the arts of its neighboring countries, Central Europe also retained a stronger Gothic tradition, used different materials, and created works of art and architecture that, in originality and maturity of design, were not only unique to the region but worthy of the attention bestowed upon its neighbors. To sever this wealth of artistic accomplishment from the rest of Europe is to deny the art student an entire region of study and inspiration regarding the arts in the 16th through 18th centuries.
Despite the "delicate" art of air raid bombing during the past century, hundreds of Renaissance and Baroque town squares, market build