French art compromises of the plastic and visual that comprise of textiles, architecture, ceramics, and woodwork which come from the topographical area of France. The origins of the art were heavily shaped by Italian art and Flemish art at the period of the Renaissance. The most popular painter of the earlier days, Jean Fouquet, is rumored to have been the initial painter to tour Italy and experience first-hand the Early Renaissance. The period which put French painting into the limelight was during the 17th century, where it ascertained itself through classicism. During this time, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who was the prime minister of Louis XIV, established the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture which was meant to look after the artists.
The Prehistoric Period
The art in this period dates back to the period between 45,000 and 10,000 years back. The art was from a variety of cultures such as the Solutrean, Magdalenian, Gravettian, and Aurignacian cultures. These include famous cave paintings such as the ones found at Pech Merle in Languedoc, which traces back to around 16,000 BC (Hodge, n.d.). Other types of art found within this period are carvings, bone pins, stone arrowheads, flint, and ornamental beads. It is believed that only Homo sapiens possessed such high capabilities of artistic expressions. However, studies have shown that Neanderthal humans may have developed this type of complex artistic expression too.
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The Celtic Period
In this period, a new form of art that was associated with the La Tene culture started developing. It became most popular from 450 BC, which was the late Iron Age, to the first century BC during the Roman conquest. It was known as Iron Age Celtic art. This art involved very complex symbolism and was extremely ornamental. This artwork used symmetry from time to time and avoided straight lines without being limited by nature. It included some styles which incorporated materials from different cultures.
The Greco-Roman Period
This period comprised of art which was known as classical art. It described periods which most of the artists found inspiration through the ancient style of the Greeks and Romans. This type of art became popular in mid-5th century BC and was famous for its reasonableness, sheer beauty, simplicity, and humanity. By this time, artists had overcome many obstacles that faced them before then. They had skillfully acquired the knowledge to portray the human form in action, at rest, and naturally without any hardships. They were most interested in portraying gods, where they thought of them as superior human beings who were more beautiful and grander in comparison. They sought out to represent beauty in their sculptures rather than any specific person. These artists mostly preferred to use marble as their raw materials.
The Parthenon Sculptures
These sculptures are an example of art that were sculptured during the Greco-Roman period. They are one of the most famous works of art to date (Jenkins, 2007). The frieze is around 3 feet high and 523 feet long. The subject is the conventional cortege of the Panathenaic Festival. The figures represent sacrificial cattle and sacrifice bearers; maidens, nobles, and soldiers; elders, priests, and gods. They stand out despite the un-detailed background. The horses and the horsemen are carved in such a way that they exude grace. All their bodies appear to be pressing progressively in rhythmical movement.
To say that the French spend most of their time learning about culture and arts is a major understatement, more so in the city of Paris. There is an abundance of art venues here, and most people spend their weekends exploring the wealth of cultural havens and museums. Unsurprisingly, this behavior can be attributed to their pride in heritage, combined with the country’s wide history in art.
Hodge, S. Prehistoric art (1st ed.).
Jenkins, I. (2007). The Parthenon sculptures (1st ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.