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Baroque Painting

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Table of contents

  1. Baroque Art
  2. Painting Styles and Types
  3. Religious extravagance
    Life-like Realism
    Easel Art

Baroque Art

The baroque painting consists of a range of styles varying from Classical Religious Grandeur, Realism and Easel Art maturing during the beginning of 1600 and continuing throughout the mid 18th century. Therefore this new movement saw the proliferation of major themes of Baroque painting such as the de-emphasis of the figure, a mastery of light and shadow, realism in all things and last but not least, new subjects like landscapes, still life and self-portraiture.

Compared to Renaissance, Baroque art was mainly characterized by outstanding drama which in paintings was richer, used deep colors, and used intense light and very dark shadows. Therefore whilst Renaissance art tended to show the moment before an event took place, Baroque artists chose the dramatic instant that is the moment when the action was taking place. This was intended to evoke passionate emotions to viewers opposed to the alternative calm reason that had been practiced during the Renaissance.

Another important factor for painting style change was when the Holy Roman Church, in order to fill its role thus used paintings as religious propaganda. Religious-themed Baroque art tended to be larger in scale and displayed publicly as monumental paintings fixed to highly decorated frames and ceilings frescoes affixed to walls in many palaces and churches. Following the assertions made by the Council of Trent, the Baroque painting now started to manifest key elements depicting Catholic doctrine, either directly found in biblical scriptures or deriving indirectly from ancient mythological allegorical works. This brought a monumental approach with painters portraying a stronger sense of movement by the use of complex spirals and spatial compositions with the aid of stronger colored schemes in order to overwhelm and surprise viewers. New techniques such as Caravaggio’s Chiaroscuro alter termed as Tenebrism were developed to enhance the mood of paintings. Amongst the greatest Baroque period painters, one will find Caravaggio, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Honthorst, de la Tour and Poussin with Caravaggio being primarily the successor of the High Renaissance humanist painters. Michelangelo Merisi’s innovative realistic way of portraying human figures painted directly from daily life and using of dramatic light contrasts against a dark background stunned his contemporaries, in consequence starting a new style in the history of painting. This type of Baroque painting often dramatizes scenes using the chiaroscuro light effects which can be clearly seen in works by Gerrit van Honthorst and Georges de La Tour.

Now Baroque architecture was designed with the intention of creating spectacle and illusion. The straight lines methods used in Renaissance were now seen replaced with more complex flowing curves. In architecture, domes and roofs were now enlarged incorporating complex geometry with palaces and church interiors carefully constructed to produce spectacular effects of light and shadow.

In other words, Baroque painting, therefore, can be considered as being that powerful style that was intended to influence people’s emotions thus used to achieve dramatic results.

Painting Styles and Types

17th Century paintings, sculpture and architecture are known as Baroque, cannot be defined as a single style. In Painting there were at least three different styles of Baroque art and these can be classified as follows;

Religious extravagance

This was a triumphant, overstated and almost theatrical style of religious art, commissioned by European courts of the absolute monarchs immediately after the Counter-Reformation. This type of Baroque art is well represented by the bold visionary painter such as Caravaggio and by the grandiose images by the Flemish master, Peter Paul Rubens.

Life-like Realism

A new more realistic approach to painting people was developed in this period of time. This new approach was mastered by Caravaggio and later by his followers. The human appeal of Caravaggio’s figures, especially when depicting religious painting was now done using a more realistic approach. Moreover works by other painters such as Velasquez constituted a new form of movement that characterized the art of the period formed the new baroque style.

Easel Art

This 17th-century style can be described as a genre consisting of still-life painting that mainly flourished in the Netherlands. Unlike the large-scale Italian paintings, being generic or religious works, Baroque art in Protestant Holland was now being represented by a new form of easel art. A form of genre painting purposely created for the wealthy middle-class families. This new Dutch Realist school of genre painting also led to an improved realism in portraiture and landscape paintings, with its composition varying from new forms of still life painting such as landscapes, animal compositions to vanitas works.

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