James La Chase Book of Kells Art85

James La Chase

Art 85

The Book of Kells

What do the words art and design mean to you? To me they mean a transformation that transcends through time.  By this

I mean when something is created it was to serve a purpose.  That is the core of design.   Art on the other hand is meant

to evoke an emotional response.  The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript, is an excellent example of how art and

design can be mingled.

When it was first created in circa 800 by Celtic monks I believe it was for a purpose. It is stated “The book had a

sacramental rather than educational purpose.” In my point of view I think the purpose was to share their teachings with

the population. At the time only 10% of the population could read and write. This gospel allowed the other 90% to get the

same message. This wasn’t your typical bible that is just paragraph upon paragraph. It created a user friendly medium

where those who couldn’t read could understand through image.  The illustrations and detail surpass that of any other

Gospel books in both lavishness and elaboration.  The artwork is traditional Christian iconography with a touch of motifs

of Insular Art. For those who couldn’t understand the teachings there were depictions of humans, animals and mythical

beasts.  There are many forms of symbolism strewn throughout with emphasis of the major illustrations. “The

workmanship is so fine that some of the details can only be clearly seen with a magnifying glass.” It was created for a

reason and that was purely design.

As time went on and the world became educated and the concept of design shifted into art.  The Book of Kells went

from teaching the population into a beautiful piece of work that people can appreciate. This is in regards to present time.

It no longer served a purpose because the time period has evolved into a higher level of understanding.  The Book of

Kells is not the lead source of information that it once was. There are no nobles reading the stories or peasants depicting

images. Perhaps there is a group of individuals that follow this age old tradition but for today’s world it is viewed as a

work of art that affects each person in a different way.

I find that when comparing subject matter sometimes it doesn’t always have a correct answer. Sometimes the

beauty is all in the eye of the beholder.  The Book of Kells is exactly that. Some may view it as strictly one thing over the

other. I however see it as a design that evolved into a form of art.

Wikipedia.  Book of Kells.  9 Sept. 2012.  10 Oct. 2012 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/book_of_kells#purpose>.

Snell, Melissa.  The Book of Kells.  .  10 Oct. 2012 <http://historymedren.about.com/od/bookofkell1/p/book_of_kells.htm>.

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