Category Archives: Christian themes

Color Symbolism in Medieval Christian Art

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Color Symbolism in Medieval Christian ArtAround 200 AD, color became a focal point in Christian art. In the beginning, each color’s meaning was taken from Ancient Greek and Roman interpretations, but soon the Bible became the color guide for Christian artists.

When the Roman Catholic Church began using color to represent liturgical seasons, five were chosen as standard: purple, white, black, red, and green. Years later, blue and gold were added. Later on, two more colors joined the list: vibrant orange, which represented courage and strength, and rich brown, the symbol of earth and humility.

These key colors and their variants are apparent in surviving pieces of medieval Christian art and religious iconography.

● Purple, a royal color since ancient times, is also associated with repentance. It is the liturgical color for Lent and Advent.

● White symbolizes innocence, purity, and virtue. To this day it remains the representative color for all of the Christian high Holy Days, such as Christmas and Easter.

● Black is regarded as the symbol of death and mourning, although in some instances it could represent power. Black is the color associated with Good Friday.

● Red is the color of Pentecost and symbolizes the Holy Spirit. During the Medieval period it represented the blood of Christian martyrs.

● Green glorifies the season of Epiphany. It celebrates fertility, nature, bounty, and hope.

● Yellow (gold) symbolizes hope, light, and purity. When combined with white, it is the symbolic color for the Easter season.

● Blue embodies heavenly grace. The Virgin Mary is often depicted wearing blue.

Color Symbolism in Medieval Christian Art 1During the Middle Ages, color and light became important mediums for artistic expression. Color in particular was a vehicle for illustrating a higher reality, so shading was discouraged in favor of pure color. On canvas, human skin was not flesh-colored, but a pearly and ethereal white. Blood was a life-rich red, and skies and lakes were more cerulean than blue. Mixing paint became an art form in itself, as artists tried to reproduce the desired hues as clearly as possible.

Although there was a system in place for color symbolism, it was not set in stone. Artists yielded to a natural impulse and added their own interpretations while paying lip service to the original standards. In the study halls and libraries, theologians and philosophers assigned additional meanings to each shade in the artists’ palette. It can make things confusing for modern art historians, especially when you take into consideration that the color symbolism of religious art found its way into secular art too. But a strong enough core system was in place to allow reasonable interpretation to be possible even today.

Read more Segmation blog posts about color symbolism:

The Stories Behind Holiday Colors

Colors Red and Purple: A History of Emotion

Art in Ancient Egypt

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Thomas Kinkade: The “Painter of Light”

Thomas Kinkade, popularly known as the “Painter of Light,” passed away in his sleep at the age of 54. His inspirational work touched the lives of many and will continue to live on.

Blessed with an ability to capture a moment in time, Kinkade preserved some of the most beautiful scenes of life in his paintings. Those who admire his work know that each of his paintings offer an escape from reality.

His idyllic settings, infused with radiant light, include nature scenes; gardens and seascapes, as well as nostalgic homes, cottages and cityscapes. He painted a classic America; one that many dream of and long for. Kinkade’s paintings depict the world that many people wanted to be part of – picture perfect in every way.

The painter once said, “My mission as an artist is to capture those special moments in life adorned with beauty and light. I work to create images that project a serene simplicity that can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone.” He painted for the people, not for the critics.

Even those unfamiliar with Kinkade’s paintings can see that his work tells a story. The champions and collectors of Kinkade’s endeavors know there is more than meets the eye in each painting. For instance, the “Painter of Light” always included his wife’s initials. He also inserted his very first hero, Norman Rockwell, into many of his pieces. If you spot the boy working his paper rout on a bicycle in “Hometown Morning”, then you have discovered Kinkade himself, preserved in the moment he met his beloved wife Nanette.

Much of the inspiration for his art was fueled by his faith. Despite a less than ideal childhood, Kinkade always clung to his art. By the age of sixteen, he had become an accomplished painter. He studied at the University of California at Berkley and then worked as an artist for films.

Many people credit his time spent working on films as the experience that enabled him to grasp the effects of light, which he transferred to his painting. All of his paintings include a warm, radiant and comforting light that calls one back to a simpler time.

Thomas Kinkade’s life mission, to make art available to everyone that they might enjoy beauty, is still a reality. Though the talented and generous man is gone, he lives on through his paintings. Millions of people will still stand looking at his paintings, caught for a moment in the comforting and inspiring worlds he created.

http://www.artbythomaskinkade.com/thomas_kinkade.html

http://www.thomaskinkade.com/magi/servlet/com.asucon.ebiz.biography.web.tk.BiographyServlet

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Giotto di Bondone – Father of European Painting (www.segmation.com)


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Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 – 1337), known simply as Giotto, was a Florentine painter and architect. He is now considered the first great master of the Italian Renaissance and the founder of modern European painting. Giotto’s natural and realistic style broke away from the symbolism of Byzantine art and was the catalyst that marked the start of the Renaissance.

Giotto was born in a small hamlet north of Florence. His father was a farmer and Giotto probably spent much of his youth as a shepherd. According to art historian Giorgio Vasari, the renowned Florentine artist, Cimabue, who was the last great painter in the Byzantine style, discovered the young Giotto drawing pictures of sheep on a rock. Cimabue was so impressed by the young boy’s talent that he immediately took him on as an apprentice. That story may be apocryphal but by around 1280 Giotto was working in Florence and by 1312 he was a member of the Florentine Guild of doctors and apothecaries, a guild that also included painters. He traveled to Rome with Cimabue and may well have worked on some of the master’s commissions.

Giotto signed his name to just three paintings. All other attributions to him are speculative and the unresolved controversy has raged through the art world for over a hundred years. Nevertheless, his work stands at the brink of a new age in art. He concentrated on representing human emotions, people in everyday situations, and capturing the human experience through his art.

Although he lacked the technical knowledge of perspective, he created a convincing three-dimensional pictorial space. His genius was immediately recognized by his contemporaries; he was lauded by great philosophers, writers and thinkers of his day, among them Dante and Boccaccio. Under Giotto’s leadership the old, stylized Byzantine art forms slowly disappeared from Florence, and later from other Italian cities. His freedom of expression influenced artists of the early and high Renaissance, and changed the course of European painting.

One of Giotto’s finest works is the series of frescoes painted 1304-1305 for the Scrovegni chapel in Padua, usually known as the Arena Chapel. The 37 scenes depict the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary and are considered to be one of the masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. The figures in his paintings interact, gossip, and look at each other.

From 1306 to 1311 Giotto was in Assisi where some art historians believe he painted the fresco cycle of the Life of St. Francis. Although the style of the frescoes is realistic and breaks away from the Byzantine stylization, the controversy is caused by the stylistic differences between the St. Francis and Arena Chapel frescoes. Documents that could have proved the origin of the commissions were destroyed by Napoleon’s troops when they occupied the town in the early 19th century.

Giotto received commissions from princes and high officials of the church in Florence, Naples and Rome. Most scholars agree that he painted the frescoes in the Church of the Santa Croce in Florence and although he never signed the Ognissanti Madonna altarpiece, the Florentine work is universally recognized as being by him. It is known that Giotto was in Florence from 1314-1327 and the large panel painting depicting the Virgin was painted around 1310. The face of the Virgin is so expressive that it may well have been painted using a live model.

Towards the end of his life, Giotto was assigned to build the Campanile of the Florence Cathedral. In 1334 he was named chief architect and, although the Campanile is known as “Giotto’s Tower,” it was probably not built to his design specifications.

Giotto died in January, 1337. Even his burial place is surrounded by mystery. Vasari believed he was buried in the Cathedral of Florence, while other scholars claimed he was buried in the Church of Santa Reparata. But Giotto left an artistic legacy that could not be ignored. His disciples, Bernardo Daddi and Taddeo Gaddi continued in the master’s tradition and, a century later, the artistic torch lit by Giotto was passed on to Michelangelo and Raphael, the great masters of the High Renaissance.

Giotto made a radical break from the Byzantine (abstract – anti-naturalistic) style and brought more life to art. Giotto primarily painted Christian themes depicted in cycles and is best known for his frescos in various Chapels (Arene Chapel, Florence Cathedral, Assisi, Scrovegni).

Our pattern set collection features many of his more familiar works including the Ognissanti Madonna, The Mourning of Christ, The Marriage at Cana, The Mourning of St. Francis, Crucifixion and Madonna and Child.

Giotto di Bondone

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