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Baroque Art
By Neal McLaughlin

Art movements come and go. Some last only a short time while others remain only to be developed into a fresher, more modern style with new philosophies, techniques and goals. For many art movements they are born out of rebellion: rebellion of the world's social, cultural and economical changes.

The artists who so passionately despise these changes will immediately abandon their current style to boldly pronounce that these changes are inappropriate, unwarranted and in their hearts, unneeded.

Thus, is born a new art movement, a movement that expresses their distaste for any current or future changes. Critics and patrons alike, in the hope that the new style of self-expression will succumb to the negative pressures will ostracize more often than not the new movement and the artisans involved in its birth.

Although the critics and patrons will freely and openly criticize that which they wish not to acknowledge as "appropriate" art, the condemnation is usually expressed from the public sector. However, in the early sixteenth-century we find that the religious sector sought to influence the artistic community.

At they beginning of the sixteenth-century there was a great degree of religious tension as the Protestants had decided to secede from the Roman Catholic Church. In response to the Protestant Reformation the Roman Catholic Church initiated the Counter Reformation Program.

As part of their reformation program the Catholic Church had decided to use art on a grandiose scale in attempt to reach the largest possible audience. However, the Council of Trent determined that the church follows certain protocol and parameters pertaining to their use of art.

The Council of Trent stipulated that any art used by the Roman Catholic Church must be of clear, intelligent subject matter that would be realistically interpreted as reference to piety. Also, any works of art were to depict the subject matter of grandiose visions, intense light and be powerful, psychological renderings that would invoke deep emotions and intense contemplation.

Thus, the response to the Protestant Reformation led to the style of art know as Baroque, with its subject matter of grandiose visions, religious ecstasies and conversions, martyrdom, death and powerful psychological renderings.

Since the Baroque style was not limited to artisans of painting only, the same parameters applied to sculptors and architects as well, which was evident from the fountains and sculptures that were erected throughout the streets of Rome. Also evident in the European architectures were the use of grand ornamentation and lines that consisted of curves instead of being straight or angular. Keeping with the tradition of the baroque, spaces were made to look a lot larger than they actually were by using vibrant lines that expanded and contrasted.

The Baroque Movement was highly encouraged by the Catholic Church, the most important patrons of the arts during this period, in hopes of influencing the people to return to the traditional values of spirituality.

Although the Baroque Movement actually started in Rome, it eventually had its influence on the artisans of France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain where the branches of the movement actually branched off into 2 additional forms, but retaining the basic philosophies.

The Baroque style which dominated the Roman Catholics and practiced by artists such as Pietro Bernini (1562-1629 Italian Sculptor) and Peter Paul Reubans (1577-1640) tended to be doctrinally correct, and visually stimulating as well as emotionally inspiring. The Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) style, on the other hand was considered to be revolutionary and contradictory of the traditional ideas of interpreting religious objects as he often chose as subject matters; people from the street.

The third and final development of the Baroque style were the paintings depicted by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) and JanVerneer (1632-1675) which emphasized the daily life of people in the Flemish countries. With exception to painters Rembrandt, Sir John Thornhill (1675-1734) and architect Sir John Vanburgh (1664-1726), the Protestant countries such as Holland and Britain adamantly resisted the Baroque Art Movement due to it ties with the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Although predominately a European art movement, Baroque did spill over into Colonial America where there was an explosive economic growth that made it possible for the large and prosperous middle-class families to invest in large, ornate houses and palaces.

The Baroque movement continued until roughly 1750, although some of its characteristics continued until the 18th-century. However, by the end of the 18th-century "baroque" was coined as a phrase to criticize the style that many critics deemed too bizarre or outlandish for any serious studies.

While Swiss Cultural Historian Jakob Burchardt considered baroque to be the end of the Renaissance, his student, Heinrich Wolffin declared that the movement was neither a rise nor a decline from the classic, it was just a different style of art.

Despite its intended purpose and it lengthy run, Baroque would soon step aside for a more modern movement and the moniker "baroque" would eventually, perhaps incorrectly, be used to describe any style of art, architecture, music or literature for the entire period from 1600-1750.

The 17th-century, by many historians has been called the Age of Enlightenment. During this time there were many discoveries taking place that brought the world to a higher intellectual level. Galalileo and his investigation of the planets, the realization the earth was not the center of the universe and the development of the press expanded the world's views on many matters.

Perhaps, with what must have seemed to be a host of dramatic changes during this time, the fear of religion becoming lost in the shuffle may had been the Catholic Church's motivation for wanting to keep the religions from separating. However, as the world changed to keep up with the new discoveries, so did the ideas and philosophies of her people.

Despite the gallant effort to keep everyone with in one religion it was a fruitless attempt. As the Protestants moved forward to other countries they basically denied any association with the Catholic Church, which sings loud and clear in their refusal to accept the baroque art movement.

 

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ART HISTORY RESOURCES: Part 10 17th-Century Baroque Art

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Baroque Art

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Florentine Baroque Art Bibliography - Miles Chappell

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Travel Info Italy

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Baroque Art (17th Century). Stylistic diversity characterizes the Baroque era. ... For more information on the Baroque, visit ART. Click Here to View Collection. Home

 

 


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