Anglo Saxon Art

 

Art History: A Quick Brief of Anglo Saxon Art

450 – 1066 AD

Anglo Saxon art can be divided into two phases; one occurring before the Danish invasion and one after. It can also be divided by its producers: monks on the one hand, and the Angles and Saxons themselves.

The art movement is characterized by illuminated manuscripts and metalwork and carvings that were densely decorated with symbolism and visual riddles. Though we think of this period as the “Dark Ages”, what we have leftover after Viking and other raids is but a small, and comparatively insignificant, collection of what the people of the time would have considered lesser art (excepting the illuminated manuscripts). The writers of the time recorded highly colorful wall paintings and textiles interwoven with gold. These things have not survived into our time.

Anglo Saxon Art Origins and Historical Importance:

When the Romans left Britain in the early 5th century, the land was vulnerable to invasion. While it is widely believed that the Angles and Saxons began a mass migration to the area, it is now believed that a collection of Germanic peoples came over in small groups and that the cultural changes following were natural acculturation.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle

England at the time was already a Christianized post-Roman culture. Ancient historians, Gildas and Patrick, wrote that the people of what is now Britain were literate, thriving, and even well to do enough to be self-indulgent. Therefore, they were not an uncultured people when the Angles and Saxons arrived.

“Anglo-Saxon civilization has taught the individual to protect his own rights; American civilization will teach him to respect the rights of others.”  – William Jennings Bryan

These groups settled in Britain for many reasons, but one reason was to protect the Britons from the Picts. The Saxons were given land in a treaty on the promise that they would provide protection. They agreed but later perpetrated violence themselves. Gildas claims they were barbarians and Bede says that all of the invading groups brought in the oppression of the Britons, genocide, and slavery.

The island later became divided into tribal lands and small kingdoms.

Due to the age and political climate, later invasions and changing populations, we have very little left from the first period of Anglo Saxon art before the Danish Invasion. The remains of archeological sites like Sutton Hoo are, therefore, very important.

Sutton Hoo Helmet - Anglo Saxon Art

Sutton Hoo Helmet – Anglo Saxon Art

Sutton Hoo is a grouping of burial mounds on the river Deben that contain the ship burial of an Anglo Saxon king. It contains his most prized possessions. This site helps historians and archeaologists piece together the truth from which they otherwise are only able to extract from myth and legend. It is also very important to art historians as it is the key collection in the 6th-9th centuries. The objects found include helmets, armor, and adornments, as well as weapons and shields. All show finely detailed patterns and images; some finished in gems and precious stones.

The seventh century brought monks from Ireland to Northumbria and the isle of Lindisfarne who retained an influence from the Celtic arts. Manuscript illumination, the highly decorative use of blues and golds to illustrate and adorn a manuscript, thrived during this time. These monastic centers used the curvilinear forms present in Celtic design in their illuminations. Monks at Canterbury also worked illuminations, and there’s were based more in the remaining influence of the Roman Christian missionaries that had brought Christianity and classical art to the south of England.

“I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together.” – Marcus Garvey

The Danish Invasion halted the arts in Britain until the middle of the tenth century, when a monastic revival occurred. The monks began to produce books with the greater illustration. This was called the Winchester School of Illumination, and it was heavily influenced by the Carolingnian (of Charlemagne) art being produced on the European continent. Human figures became more animated and dramatic in these pieces, the compositions were busier, and more colors were used; namely purple, green, gold, and blue.

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells

The stunting of religious practice when the end of the world did not come to pass may have had an influence in the furthering of arts during this time. Churches used literature, allegory, plays, and art to draw in potential parishoners that no longer saw as much of a point in Christianity as they had when they believed the end was near.

Though not many remain, textiles in the Anglo Saxon period and paintings in churches and other buildings depicted allegories, battles, mythical creatures, and royal narratives.
Anglo Saxon art has had a large influence on the art of the Christian religion, on the illustration of religious texts, metalworking, jewelry, and architecture of later centuries, into our present day.

“Death seems to provide the minds of the Anglo-Saxon race with a greater fund of amusement than any other single subject.” – Dorothy L. Sayers

Anglo Saxon art Key Highlights

  • People during this time, even historians and other learned people, believed in mythical beings to the point that they were not only recorded in art, but in the historical record. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records flying dragons, for instance. It must be taken into account when viewing these works of art that these weren’t fairytale creatures to the artist, they were real and actual threats – or so they supposed.
  • The Anglo Saxons had great respect as artisans of textiles and embroidery, known throughout Europe as the best in these art forms. English embroidery was known as Opus Anglicanum and was highly sought after on the continent.
  • The Bayeaux Tapestry was created between 1066-1070 around the time of the Norman Invasion. Though it would not seem to make the cut as Anglo Saxon art because of its late date, it is indeed in this category. It was commissioned to be created by Anglo Saxon artists in England to tell the story of the lead up to the Norman conquest.

Anglo Saxon art Top Works

  • The Anglo Saxon Chronicle
  • Bayeaux Tapestry
  • Lindisfarne Gospels
  • Book of Kells
  • Benedictional of St. Aethelwold
  • Sutton Hoo Helmet
  • The Great Buckle (Sutton Hoo)
  • Bewcastle Cross
  • The Hedda Stone

Art History Movements (Order by the period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

Paleolithic Art (Dawn of Man – 10,000 BC), Neolithic Art (8000 BC – 500 AD), Egyptian Art (3000 BC - 100 AD), Ancient Near Eastern Art (Neolithic era – 651 BC),  Bronze and Iron Age Art (3000 BC – Debated), Aegean Art (2800-100 BC), Archaic Greek Art (660-480 BC), Classical Greek Art (480-323 BC ), Hellenistic Art (323 BC – 27 BC), Etruscan Art (700 - 90 BC)

1st Century to 10th Century

Roman Art (500 BC – 500 AD), Celtic Art. Parthian and Sassanian Art (247 BC – 600 AD), Steppe Art (9000BC – 100 AD), Indian Art (3000 BC - current), Southeast Asian Art (2200 BC - Present), Chinese and Korean Art,  Japanese Art (11000 BC – Present),  Early Christian Art (260-525 AD,  Byzantine Art (330 – 1453 AD), Irish Art (3300 BC - Present), Anglo Saxon Art (450 – 1066 AD), Viking Art (780 AD-1100AD), Islamic Art (600 AD-Present)

10thCentury to 15th Century

Pre Columbian Art (13,000 BC – 1500 AD), North American Indian and Inuit Art (4000 BC - Present), African Art (),  Oceanic Art (1500 – 1615 AD), Carolingian Art (780-900 AD), Ottonian Art (900 -1050 AD), Romanesque Art (1000 AD – 1150 AD), Gothic Art (1100 – 1600 AD), The survival of Antiquity ()

Art History - 15th century onwards

Renaissance Style (1300-1700), The Northern Renaissance (1500 - 1615), Mannerism (1520 – 17th Century), The Baroque (1600-1700), The Rococo (1600-1700), Neo Classicism (1720 - 1830),  Romanticism (1790 -1890), Realism (1848 - Present), Impressionism (1860 - 1895), Post-Impressionism (1886 - 1904), Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1880 -1910), Fauvism , Expressionism (1898 - 1920), Cubism  . Futurism (1907-1928 )Abstract Art (1907 – Present Day), Dadasim,. Surrealism (1916 - 1970),. Latin American Art (1492 - Present, Modern American Art (1520 – 17th Century), Postwar European Art (1945 - 1970), Australian Art (28,000 BC - Present), South African Art (98,000 BC - Present)

The Most Loved Art Stories by Our Readers

 

Anglo Saxon Art  – Major Artworks

Art History Movements (Order by the period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

Paleolithic Art (Dawn of Man – 10,000 BC), Neolithic Art (8000 BC – 500 AD), Egyptian Art (3000 BC - 100 AD), Ancient Near Eastern Art (Neolithic era – 651 BC),  Bronze and Iron Age Art (3000 BC – Debated), Aegean Art (2800-100 BC), Archaic Greek Art (660-480 BC), Classical Greek Art (480-323 BC ), Hellenistic Art (323 BC – 27 BC), Etruscan Art (700 - 90 BC)

1st Century to 10th Century

Roman Art (500 BC – 500 AD), Celtic Art. Parthian and Sassanian Art (247 BC – 600 AD), Steppe Art (9000BC – 100 AD), Indian Art (3000 BC - current), Southeast Asian Art (2200 BC - Present), Chinese and Korean Art,  Japanese Art (11000 BC – Present),  Early Christian Art (260-525 AD,  Byzantine Art (330 – 1453 AD), Irish Art (3300 BC - Present), Anglo Saxon Art (450 – 1066 AD), Viking Art (780 AD-1100AD), Islamic Art (600 AD-Present)

10thCentury to 15th Century

Pre Columbian Art (13,000 BC – 1500 AD), North American Indian and Inuit Art (4000 BC - Present), African Art (),  Oceanic Art (1500 – 1615 AD), Carolingian Art (780-900 AD), Ottonian Art (900 -1050 AD), Romanesque Art (1000 AD – 1150 AD), Gothic Art (1100 – 1600 AD), The survival of Antiquity ()

Art History - 15th century onwards

Renaissance Style (1300-1700), The Northern Renaissance (1500 - 1615), Mannerism (1520 – 17th Century), The Baroque (1600-1700), The Rococo (1600-1700), Neo Classicism (1720 - 1830),  Romanticism (1790 -1890), Realism (1848 - Present), Impressionism (1860 - 1895), Post-Impressionism (1886 - 1904), Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1880 -1910), Fauvism , Expressionism (1898 - 1920), Cubism  . Futurism (1907-1928 )Abstract Art (1907 – Present Day), Dadasim,. Surrealism (1916 - 1970),. Latin American Art (1492 - Present, Modern American Art (1520 – 17th Century), Postwar European Art (1945 - 1970), Australian Art (28,000 BC - Present), South African Art (98,000 BC - Present)