University of Oxford

History of Art Department

Gothic: Artistic Originality and the Transmission of Style in Medieval Art (Dr Gervase Rosser)

This course addresses two problems central to the history of art: the roots of artistic invention, and the transmission of styles and techniques.  In a context in which artistic practice was dominated by training in the workshop, what was the scope for originality, and what was the catalyst of stylistic change?  These issues are brought into sharp focus by the changing visual culture of late-medieval Europe, between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries.  The available literature on these themes is rich, yet inconsistent and inconclusive: the course addresses questions which are very much open. 

Because the Gothic style crossed freely between different media, the course will consider artistic production in a variety of contexts.  Drawing examples principally from France, Germany, Italy and England, the eight lectures and eight classes will address the following topics: (1) Making medieval art: crafts and artisans; (2) Gothic architecture: the invention of a style; (3) Manuscript illumination: workshops and methods; (4) The Gothic artist’s response to nature; (5) ‘International Gothic’: culture without borders? (6) Monumental painting: spatial illusions; (7) Visions: seeing with Gothic eyes; (8) Gothic art in changing historical perspective, from the 19th to the 21st century.