European art after the Roman Empire

Art between the Roman period and the Renaissance.

The Romans portrayed three dimensions properly in two dimensions in their paintings. They had receding lines and a sense that things further away are smaller. But this did not persist in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, at least not in Western Europe. And I haven’t seen any evidence for it in the Christian, Constantinople-based Roman Empire that persisted into medieval times.

Instead, art from this period is flat and two-dimensional. There are no receding lines. There may be smaller buildings further back (I’m honestly not sure if that’s what some of these pictures are supposed to show), but people all seem to be in a flat line in the foreground. The people themselves look flat. And if those are supposed to be smaller buildings in the back, it’s crude: they are all the same size, rather than becoming gradually smaller with distance, so you get two flat surfaces, a foreground and a background. And the background looks like children’s toy houses rather than full-sized houses further away. It’s definitely not an accurate rendering of three dimensions in two.

This is a period where much of the writing is at Kohlberg’s stage 2 (representational logic) and stage 3 (early linear logic). So it’s more advanced than primitive culture, but not fully linear. We could call this art very early linear, I suppose. It definitely is not as sophisticated as late concrete operational art.

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The Renaissance

With the Renaissance, and its flowering of knowledge (and increase in literacy and education, and a shift to full linear logic) we go back to three-dimensional perspective again. There are still no receding train tracks, because no trains yet, but you get receding lines of buildings and a clear sense that things further away are smaller than things closer up.

The people look properly three-dimensional, with shading to make them look real.

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And there are lots of receding lines in the buildings.

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This is fully linear logical art, characteristic of late concrete operations and beyond.

So, there were two shifts to full linear period art in the West, one in the Classical era, and a later one in the Renaissance. And during the Renaissance artists got very very good at portraying things realistically in three dimensions.

After the Renaissance

After the Renaissance artists seem to have gotten bored with portraying things realistically (though you can still get a good portrait done), and shifted to portraying something other than photo reality. The Impressionists got really good at showing how light plays on things . . .

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. . . while other artists painted emotions and other internal states.

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And that’s about how sophisticated my analysis of art gets. All of this art is from before the transition to complex nonlinear logic.

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