In 1517, Luther, a Dutch priest - no doubt influenced by the earlier revolt of Savonarola (1452-98) in Florence - began a religious revolt against the corrupt practices of the Church of Rome, that led to a split in the Christian movement. The protesters became known as Protestants, while those who continued to follow the traditional Church called themselves Roman Catholics. Protestantism (which divided into four types: Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican and Anabaptist) took root in Northern European countries like Holland, Germany (except Bavaria) and Britain, while Southern European countries like France, Italy and Spain (along with the Spanish colony of Flanders), remained Catholic.
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From about 1520, as the Northern Renaissance felt the impact of Luther's revolt against the corrupt practices of the Roman Church, a new set of aesthetics took hold, in the form of Protestant Reformation Art, which reflected the Christian agenda of the Protestant movement, which rejected the humanist art and ideology of the High Renaissance, and celebrated a more austere religious experience, with minimal decoration. As a result, the amount of religious art commissioned by Protestant Church authorities was hugely reduced, and artists in Protestant countries were forced to switch to secular forms like genre painting, portrait art, landscape painting, and still lifes. Christian Canvas Art
Spain is the only European state to have emerged from a religious struggle between Christianity and Islam (Muslim rule over most of the Iberian peninsula lasted 718-1492). Not surprisingly therefore, the school of Spanish Painting produced a form of Christian art which was consistent with the country's uncompromising devotion to the Catholic cause. Its greatest exponent was Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco. After training in Byzantine icon painting he worked in Venice before making his home in Spain. Here he created a series of ecstatic portraits of Christ and the Saints, whose intensity of expression appealed directly to the spiritual feelings of the spectator. These powerful holy paintings, with their elongated figures, distorted perspective and non-natural colour schemes made El Greco the father of Counter-Reformation art in Spain. His most famous Catholic paintings include: The Trinity (1577-9); The Disrobing of Christ (1579); The Burial of Count Orgaz (1586); Christ driving the Traders from the Temple (1600); the Resurrection (1600), and The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse (1608). Although they had none of Caravaggio's naturalism, these pictures were spiritual masterpieces, and thus wholly in line with the doctrinal requirements of the Vatican. Christian Wall Art