The Neo-Gothic Revival in modern photography. The intention of this essay is to define my own work and place it within a critical context. I will be looking at art history and how it has helped to shape and define modern media.

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Neo- Gothic Revival

The intention of this essay is to define my own work and place it within a critical context. I will be looking at art history and how it has helped to shape and define modern media. Art history will always be a source of inspiration for artists all over the world. This essay will be focusing on the Gothic style and its influences over the centuries on architecture to literature and film to fashion. I will be looking into styles that have been associated with the gothic and investigate the differences and similarities; I will also incorporate other theories and apply this to my own work.

The Gothic style, mainly in architecture, developed in the mid 12th Century, following the Romanesque period, spreading to all of Western Europe and continued to evolve until the late 15th century. The original term ‘Goth’ was given to an Eastern Germanic tribe, who had a major part to play in the downfall of the Western Roman Empire around AD 300-600. They were considered as barbaric and, as this new style of medieval architecture went against all forms of ‘Classic’ art at the time, it was seen as unrefined and so the term Gothic was initially used as a synonym for barbaric. Georgio Vasari, Italian painter, writer, historian and architect, referred to it as a “monstrous and barbarous disorder”. However it became increasingly popular.

Characteristics of Gothic architecture display overtones of steeples, flying buttresses, stained glass windows, gargoyles, pointed arches and towers. Gothic architecture is common to most surviving cathedrals, churches and abbeys all over Europe. Artists during this time included Luis Borrassa, Simone Martini and Gentile da Fabriano. They were all major figures in the development and influence of Gothic art. Figures within their paintings sometimes appeared elongated with supple and sensuous qualities, with an overall stylistic courtly elegance, and a naturalistic rendering of detail.

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During the 18th Century was the birth of the Gothic revival. This was a rejection of the ‘Academy’ style of painting at the time and artists such as Johannes Vermeer, William Morris and Henry Fuseli sought to bring back the style of medieval forms, looking at art and architecture of the middle ages for inspiration. These classic symbols of Gothic architecture also had a clear influence on literature and fashion. There was a lot of criticism and so the term ‘Gothic’ was applied to describe art that was tasteless, bizarre, or against the rules of academic art. Due to this revival and interest in the middle ages, “the word lost its derogatory attachments and a stronger appreciation of the gothic styles” grew more and more popular and accepted into mainstream society. The term was used primarily to reference the architecture, but also as a convenient label for other visual arts of the period however, it’s meaning in these contexts is rarely precise. “Goth is as diverse as the writings of Poe and the lyrics of contemporary Goth bands”

Many of Henry Fuseli’s subjects that he chose to paint were highly dramatic, often violent or psychologically disturbing. “His imagination, though he seemed not aware of it, was essentially Gothic”. Fuseli also created drawings with erotic or obscene content and because of this he gained a reputation as a misogynist. The style that Fuseli developed at this time would remain largely unchanged throughout his life and owed much to his influences of gothic revival literature and vice-versa. “Fairies, sprites and demons appear in countless pictures with subjects derived from the works of Milton and Shakespeare…. Fuseli worked repeatedly on pictures which took their inspiration from literary works”. 

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Fig 4.

His most famous painting, The Nightmare, is often interpreted as a punishment of the woman Fuseli fell in love with but whom later rejected him. It shows a young woman sprawled on her back on a bed, with an ominous looking horse peering through the curtains and a gargoyle like creature, known as an incubus sitting on her torso “It is a demon that haunts the dreams of young women and is the male counterpart of a succubus” Dreams were a common subject for Fuseli; he and author Edgar Allan Poe had a fascination with the subconscious.


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