Baroque and Art History

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  • GuideToArtHistory

    FamousArtistsArtStylesandPeriodsArtMediumsAncientArt

    IntroductiontotheArtisticStyleofBaroqueByArtHistory.net

    Ineachperiodofarthistory,thereisastory.ForBaroqueart,thestoryiswhytheperiodhasbeenclassicallymisunderstood.Intheearly1600s,artistsandintellectualsworkedinacademiestoexplorehumanismbegunintheRenaissance,classicalthought(i.e.PlatoandAristotle),andnewtrendsinhumanthoughtandexpression.ButwhydoesthewordBaroquehaveanegativehistory?TheoriginaltranslationsofthiswordincludeItalianfortortuousmedievalpedantryandPortuguesefordeformedpearl(HonourandFleming).Inotheraccounts,Baroqueisassociatedwithstrange,bizarre,andspectacle.

    ThebiggestcontributionstoBaroqueartweremadebyitsgreatestsculptor,GianlorenzoBernini(15981680).BornthesonofanItaliansculptor,Pietro,heworkedwithhisfatherandproducedabustattheageoften.HewasachildprodigymuchlikeDaliandMichelangelo.BerninienjoyedimmensepopularityandnetworkedwiththepowerfuleliteofEurope,contributingimportantworksofarchitectureandsculpture,especiallyfortheChurch.Forexample,PopeUrbanVIIIhiredhimatage26tocrafttheBaldacchino(16241633),a95foothighcanopydecoratingthemainaltarofSt.PetersBasilica.ThisexquisitebronzeworkcanstillbeviewedonaVaticantour.

    Writingattheendofthe19thcentury,JohannGeorgHeckrecalledthefamousquoteItwouldhavebeenbetterforsculpturehadBerninineverlived.ThecontroversyofthisperiodisreflectedinBerninisoutrageousdeparturefromtheRenaissance.Inamarblestatue,TheEcstasyofSt.Teresa(16451652),BerninirevivedaCatholicthemewithhisowninterpretation.HereisVernonHydeMinorsdescriptionoftheartistsportrayalofdivinemysticism:

    ForBerniniandtheBaroque,mysticismwasnotjustaninwardandhiddenexperience,butonethatinvolvedadirectintuitionofthedivine,onesoclearandpalpablethatitcouldbedescribedwithvividlanguageandconcrete,visualforms.

    IntheBaroqueperiod(16001790),artistscontinuedreligiousandsecularthemesinportraits,paintings,busts,churchceilings,churches,sculptures,andotherworks.RealismaboundsinBaroquefigures,combiningrealismwithspectacleandfierceindependence.GreatartistsincludedPeterPaulRubens(15771640),hisassistant,AnthonyvanDyck(15991641),NicolasPoussin(15941665),RembrandtvanRijn(16061669),andSimonVouet(15901649).

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  • Theoutright,provokingsexualityinBaroqueartisnotonlyfoundinTheEcstasyofSt.Teresa.OtherBaroqueartistsalsosoughttocaptivateaudiences.PeterPaulRubenscapturedvoluptuouswomenoncanvasinTheRapeofLucretia(1610)andTheRapeoftheDaughtersofLeucippus(16161617).AnthonyvanDyckcapturedthemusclesandsinewsofthemaleforminTheMockingoftheChrist(1620).Interestingly,Rubensownedthispaintinguntilhisdeathin1640.

    TheBaroqueperiodoffersdeepperceptualexperiencesthroughvividrealismandsymbolism.FromBerninisdiagonalstothesoaringchurchesofEuropeandtheNewWorld,BaroquechallengestheideathatthisperiodisbestdescribedasEarlyModern.

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