The most prominent form of Gothic art from the 12th to 16th century was architecture. However; other art mediums developed parallel to this distinctive architectural style. Sculptures, paintings, carvings, stained glass and manuscript illuminations became an important part of art expression during the medieval period. The Basilica at St.-Denis, built by Abbot Suger, was one of the first major Gothic buildings to incorporate these new art forms.
As many of these mediums were used to decorate internal and external surfaces of buildings, artists developed styles used to compliment buildings.
Many of the sculptures created were of religious figures and stories. They were used to decorate empty spaces, doorways and entrances. Stories from the Old and New Testament were popular and often depicted. During later medieval centuries sculptures, and also paintings, incorporated more secular ideas, such as hunting scenes, historical events, nature and animals. This was, in part, due to an increase interest in secular literature, consequently marking an increased interest in secular art ownership. Gargoyle statues that loomed over buildings were actually used to divert water from damaging the building, much like the drainpipes of today.
As buildings became more elegant and sophisticated, sculptures transitioned into more natural designs that included increased detail and thought. Faces were carved with more animate expressions, and poses and gestures were incorporated into paintings and sculptures. Additionally, plants and other forms of nature were used in sculpture and paint design. A shift towards more elegant and meticulous detail continued into the 14th century.
Paintings were frequently used on a larger scale for decoration; panels and walls were painted with bold and rich background colors, such as gold. Oil paints were used, which some say symbolized a shift from the Dark Ages to a more civilized and affluent society. Illuminated manuscripts were also popular in decorating Gothic buildings. Painting as an art form was executed in 4 ways: frescos, panels, manuscript illuminations, and stained glass. Whatever the artistic medium was, artists took advantage of their artistic creativity and produced designs that were rich, detailed and original.