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Gothic


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Style of architecture and art that succeeded Romanesque and prevailed in Europe (particularly northern Europe) from the mid-12th century to the 16th century. Like many other stylistic labels, the word was originally a term of abuse: it was coined by Italian artists of the Renaissance to denote the type of medieval architecture they condemned as barbaric (implying, quite wrongly, that this architecture was created by the Gothic tribes who had destroyed the classical art of the Roman empire). The Gothic style is still characterized chiefly in terms of architecture—in particular by the use of pointed arches, rib vaults, and flying buttresses. None of these features was first used in the Gothic period (they are all found in late Romanesque architecture), but when employed together they created a new type of skeletal structure and a sense of graceful resilience that was very different in spirit from the massive solidity of Romanesque buildings. By extension, the term ‘Gothic’ has also been applied to the ornament, sculpture, and painting of the period in which Gothic architecture flourished; it has less precise meaning in these contexts, although a swaying elegance is often considered typical of Gothic figures, which are generally more naturalistic and less remote than those of the Romanesque period.

The Gothic Revival is the name given to a fashion involving the reintroduction of Gothic forms in architecture and associated arts. It began in the mid-18th century in a fairly lighthearted way, medieval forms being used for their picturesque qualities, in a Rococo spirit, with no regard for archaeological accuracy (as at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill). However, the movement became more serious in tone and developed into a major strand in 19th-century art. It flourished throughout Europe and in the USA.


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