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The Protestant Reformation had a profound impact on the transformation of art and music during and after the Reformation period. Initially, the church retained sophisticated arts and music in order to inform the uneducated congregation about Christian religious values. However, after the Reformation, sophisticated art and music practice was liberated from the clergy, and the reformers were more concerned with divine affairs rather than the human beings that dominated the church. The reformation came at an opportune moment because it inspired the advent of a new generation of reformers who promoted the process by different acts. For instance, artists and painters ceased using painting styles that portrayed biblical themes but instead they focused on creating paintings about realism that arose from an individual’s understanding, meditation and interpretation of the scripture.
During this time, musicians and artists began using their works for worship purposes as opposed to dramatizing the scripture. For instance, Bach, a visionary musician at the time of the Reformation era, changed the composition and presentation of music. Throughout his life as a musician, Bach transformed the use of music in religious gatherings, and like other reformers, he focused on expressing the Christian faith as a form of worship. This situation is evident where Wilsey says, “Bach was a careful student of Scripture, who at his death owned an ample library made up exclusively of theological books” (Wilsey 35). Similarly, the reformation process influenced the emergence of a new breed of visionary artists and painters that introduced many changes in arts during and after the Reformation period. Rembrandt van Rijn was one of the visionary reformers during the era.
Initially, as a young painter, Rijn learned his painting skill from veteran painters that had previously specialized in developing paintings and drawings for the ancient Catholic Church. However, as the reformation process set in, he began focusing on matters that touched on his Christian faith and later shifted his artwork to align with the requirements of his new faith from a protestant’s viewpoint. Wilsey says, “The years 1634-1642 were Rembrandt’s years of prosperity. He turned out many masterpieces. Some of these include biblical themes that he would paint again in later years from a fresh, more realistic, spiritual perspective” (Wilsey 40). Also, the shift ensured that most of his paintings took a realistic approach, and as well, they were based on a spiritual perspective unlike those of his predecessors.
Also, prior to the Reformation, the practice of music and the presentation of art through paintings differed significantly from the way they were practiced in the period after the Reformation. For instance, before the change, the composition and presentation of music was predetermined and restricted in real practice whereas, its motifs took a realistic approach following the Reformation. Similarly, the artwork was initially restricted for use in the church and was idealistic in nature as opposed to being realistic. However, following the Reformation, most works of art took a realistic approach that was strictly based on spiritual faith. Understandably, most of the reformers were followers of the new Protestant faith that had just begun under the leadership of Martin Luther.
Notably, the Lutheran principles of worship and the doctrines of theology laid the foundation from which reforms in art and music were realized. Luther’s comprehension of theology, music, and art was a major source of influence for the new generation of reformers in the fields of art and music. This situation is evident where the author says, “As we turn now to a consideration of just how closely Bach followed Luther in his theology and musical composition” (Wilsey 37). Moreover, his teachings successfully converted most of the talented young reformers that acquired a spiritual turn-around and shifted their allegiance to the Protestant faith, and therefore, they were keen on following the teachings and advice of Luther during and after the Reformation. Wilsey says, “But like Luther, Rembrandt experienced a spiritual turning point in his life, one that changed his perspective for all time” (Wilsey 50). Thus, Luther’s reformation was significant in reforming art and music in the ancient European society.
Wilsey, John. The Impact Of The Reformation On The Fine Arts. 1st ed. Liberty University, 2006. Print.
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