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A family of a little boy and girl and father look closely at a painting within the European Art Gallery.
A family enjoys looking closely at a painting within the European Art Gallery.

The sweeping cultural transformations that occurred across the European continent following the Medieval period included numerous phases of war and peace, religious and social upheaval, and the creation of modern nations. During this time, the role of the artist changed as increased sources of patronage initiated a considerable shift in artistic production, and the wider movement of artists and artefacts provided for extensive artistic and cultural exchange. As a result, the works on view display broad material and regional differences, but also draw connections between formal, stylistic, and technical concerns of the era.

The gallery begins with the Renaissance, a period of interest in ancient thought and forms, propelled between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries by a growing merchant class and an increasingly wealthy Catholic Church. In the late 1500s and 1600s, many major religious reforms took place, resulting in new denominations and doctrinal changes within the Church. As a result, art from this period, called the Baroque, is often distinguished by a renewed emphasis on immediacy, clarity, and emotion. As the Age of Enlightenment arose in the late seventeenth century, a growing interest in scientific inquiry and social reform resulted in the displacement of devotional imagery by civic and historical themes. Neoclassicism emerged in the mid-eighteenth century and embodied these ideals through artistic restraint, harmony, and detail, often using classical subjects to reference contemporary concerns. Portraiture and landscape—significant themes in western art since antiquity—remained popular subjects around the continent and throughout the hundreds of years spanned in this gallery.

The Book of Hours

View a digital version of the Nasher Museum's Book of Hours. The Book of Hours is a fine example of 15th-century French manuscript production. It has 156 pages, including daily prayers for Christian devotion, a calendar of saints’ days and 13 full-page paintings, or miniatures, depicting religious scenes and vignettes associated with contemporary life.

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