Flemish landscape painting follows a particular pattern: the horizon line is high, opening to a distant view with
fanciful mountains and seas. Because it seems to let you see everything on Earth, this type of painting is sometimes
called a world landscape. In the foreground, there is usually a religious or historical scene (landscapes without some
human element were rare before the seventeenth century). Often, there are sharp color distinctions between
foreground and background, with the areas closest to viewers done in warm, golden colors and the background done
in cooler tones of blue.
Although artists in the Holy Roman Emperor (as Germany was known then) share many of the characteristics of
Flemish painting, there are some unique aspects of their works. In the
century, the painted altarpiece in
Germany was usually composed of a main scene (the corpus, or “body” of the altarpiece) with two stacked narrative
paintings on either wing (some altarpieces have double wings). A variation of this type has a carved wooden
sculptural scene in the corpus; the wing narratives might be painted or done in relief carving. An excellent example
of this type of altarpiece was done by Veit Stoss in 1480, while the German artist was working in Krakow Poland.
Painting and sculpture in this period can be very expressive—the artist might exaggerate or distort poses, gestures,
or the way the figure is drawn to elicit an emotional response from the viewer. Especially in paintings of the 15th
century, strong color and sharp facial features contribute to the expressive quality of the work
Veit Stoss, Altarpiece in the Church of St. Mary’s,
Krakow, Poland, 1480
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