From Renaissance to Rococo: Art in Central Europe

Project Overview:

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.

Project Description:

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 buildings, churches, monasteries, frescoes, altar pieces, libraries and palaces are still in existence today, either preserved for their value or painstakingly restored. The sheer magnitude of artistic endeavor which remains after being the battleground for two world wars indisputably evidences Central Europe's active role in the Renaissance through Rococo time periods. While focusing only on Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic, had time and finances permitted, I would have continued my search east to Buda-Pest, Hungary, and beyond.

To create my tour, I xeroxed detailed road maps of Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic and taped them together in longitudinal sections 11" high by 4' wide. I then began the tedious task of locating each site, assisted with modem tour guides, text descriptions, and current town listings. It was like creating a treasure map of sights rarely seen and literally unknown outside the region. Remarkably, just as in Italy, many of these towns have been in existence since they were Roman settlements 2000 years ago.

As I marked each place of interest, I devised a plan for touring sites in close proximity, regardless of province or country borders. Ultimately, I narrowed my focus to a final itinerary of visiting sites in 66 towns in 61 days. It is just a beginning. (See, for example, the attached page of six interiors).

Not only has my research for the USOAR proposal provided me a fairer perspective of European art and architecture, but the grant itself will afford me my first opportunity to go to Europe, to experience another culture, language and customs. Also, in order to reduce expenses as much as possible and gain greater cultural appreciation, I will find accommodations at pensions or zimmers, affordable rooms for rent in the homes of local residents.

Moreover, I have searched the study abroad programs regarding fine arts. Almost all quality art programs are directed to Italy, France or England. Because the USOAR program involves independent study, my desire to view the art and architecture of Central Europe will be possible. As an artist, this will be an invaluable experience. It is all about being there, observing, sketching and photographing. Far superior to a few black-and-white photographs found in a book, it is about observing the lines, colors and forms of the church altarpiece, the decorated staircase beyond the hallway, and the frescoed ceiling in the small side chapel. It is about all the things not shown in a photograph, all the things surrounding each other and their effect upon each other in shape, color and value. It simply must be experienced. Hopefully, a diligent and observant artist can share this feeling for the whole, encompassing view as he creates the central image. Furthermore, I can utilize my own sketches and photographs without fear of copyright conflicts and refer to the designs and details for years to come as I create watercolor and ink illustrations and oil paintings.

In addition, because it takes at least seven to ten days to produce a detailed, representative watercolor, I do not feel it would be wise to spend a week or more painting at just six locations. In addition, painting outdoors requires cooperation with the weather, and traveling with art boards, drafting supplies and paints would be cumbersome. Therefore, I believe the best use of my time is to sketch and photographically document the images of my journey.

In preparation of my proposal, I received the assistance and direction of __________________ and _________________. Upon my return, I will create a series of ten representative watercolor paintings, completed by the end of the USOAR term (February 28, 2003), for a gallery showing at Northern Illinois University and/or its satellite locations. It is my expectation that this very tangible, visible result of the funding from the USOAR program will encourage other NIU students to participate in the USOAR opportunity. In addition, a gallery showing will share with others a cultural legacy lost amidst a century of war and conflict but still as vibrant, humbling and awe-inspiring as when these incredible works of art and architecture were first created centuries ago.

For me, not only will I return with a lifetime of memories, but the inspirational photos and sketches of architectural details, mural colors and design elements will provide the volumes of reference material that I can finally place next to books on English, French, Dutch and Italian art. Truth is the daughter of time, and perhaps in several generations from now, the contribution of Central Europe to the arts of the Renaissance and Baroque/Rococo periods will once again be recognized. But, in the meantime, the only way I will actually learn about it is to see it myself.

Proposed Budget:

A: Travel Expenses

Air Fare: Round Trip from Chicago, Illinois to Frankfurt, Germany $ 750.00
Eurailpass 2 months (unlimited travel in Austria/Germany) $1298.00
Prague Excursion Pass $ 38.00
Wurzburg/Fussen Bus Route/with bag storage fees $ 45.00
Additional Tram/SubwaylFerry/Bus/Local Train fees $ 150.00
Total $2281.00

B. Non-Personnel

Travel research books/maps/local guides $ 150.00
Sketchbook, pens, pencils, erasers $ 25.00
Film (32 rolls) (8 4-paks-400 speed 24 @ $9.00) $ 72.00
Film Development - 32 rolls x $4.99 $ 160.00
Passport ($60); ISIC card ($22) $ 82.00
Entrance Fees to sites $ 125.00 (ISIC student rate where accepted)
Art &Architecture Reference books (purchased at sites/regional bookstores) $ 250.00
Total $ 864.00

C. Living Expenses

Estimated total of $65 for meals and room per day x 61 days $3965.00
Total: $3965.00
Total: $7110.00