The Arts Society Horsham - Art and Architecture: Estranged Bedfellows

The Arts Society Horsham - Art and Architecture: Estranged Bedfellows

15 Mar 2024

What would one do with a pair of compasses?  The answer is to measure the relationship between art and architecture in the High Renaissance period of course!  

In this fascinating lecture at The Capitol Theatre in Horsham on 13 March, Richard Whincop, using a pair of digital compasses, skilfully and meticulously, charted and illustrated the seamless integration between art and architecture in the High Renaissance period.  This “mutual enrichment” might even be described as a match made in heaven, as the early Renaissance painters working with the architects and stone masons, used the common tools of compass and set square to create art that reflected the divine order of the cosmos.  The ultimate goal was that the art should be in total unison and proportion to the architecture.  Many Renaissance artists including Giotto, Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo all worked in this way.  Michelangelo though later advocated using the eyes alone! 

Then, around the 19th Century, the ‘holy matrimony” went sour and art left the building! Richard attributed the “divorce” to the demise of the guilds and the rise of the bourgeoisie and art academies across Europe.  Art became a commodity, promoted through the art dealers, art exhibitions and private commissions. The “Cabinet of curiosities” is one illustration of the irrevocable damage done - the art on display bears no relationship to its physical setting!  Modernism of the 20th century brought new concepts such as “form follows function” and the Bauhaus school where the interior and exterior of buildings were stripped bare of “clutter”.  Such a stark contrast and the estrangement of art and architecture seemed finally complete.  But here Richard offers some optimism of revival for a new trend of decorative art to adorn buildings, using example of the richly decorated ceiling of the Market Hall in Rotterdam.  We come to the conclusion that essentially, art makes buildings more meaningful, beautiful and engaging for consumers! Let’s hope the estrangement was only a trial separation!  



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