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Thread: The Basics of Baroque Art

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    The Basics of Baroque Art

    Art of Manliness

    Time Period: 1600s-1700s

    Background: When Martin Luther penned his 95 Theses in 1517, he set off a movement that would forever change the world: the Protestant Reformation. His criticisms of the Catholic Church and arguments for things like the supreme authority of the Scriptures and justification by faith alone would spread throughout Europe via the printing press, making converts and starting new Protestant denominations.

    In response, the Catholic Church launched its own internal reformation to both clean up corruption and clearly define its doctrines and theology. This Counter-Reformation found its most important expression in the Council of Trent, called by Pope Paul III in 1545. While the Council took steps to reform internal abuses, it made no attempt to compromise with Protestants on matters of doctrine; instead, the Church strongly reaffirmed the truth of the positions the Protestants had attacked. This re-infused the Catholic faith with new vigor and confidence.

    Yet a lesser known consequence of the Council of Trent was its effect on art.

    Part of the Church’s reform effort was to educate its members, helping them to understand more about their faith. This was no easy task as most people were illiterate during this time. The Council of Trent declared that art should be used to explain the profound dogmas of the faith to everyone, not just the educated. To accomplish this, religious art was to be direct, emotionally persuasive, and powerful-designed to fire the spiritual imagination and inspire the viewer to greater piety.

    New denominations like the Calvinists believed that churches and church services should be simple, stripped-down affairs. But the Council argued that a God of greatness and power should be worshiped with the kinds of rituals, ceremonies, and churches befitting these divine qualities. This affirmation of the beauty and grandiosity of expressions of faith found its way into Baroque art.
    Things to Look for in Baroque Art:
    • Images are direct, obvious, and dramatic.
    • Tries to draw the viewer in to participate in the scene.
    • Depictions feel physically and psychologically real. Emotionally intense.
    • Extravagant settings and ornamentation.
    • Dramatic use of color.
    • Dramatic contrasts between light and dark, light and shadow.
    • As opposed to Renaissance art with its clearly defined planes, with each figure placed in isolation from each other, Baroque art has continuous overlapping of figures and elements.
    • Common themes: grandiose visions, ecstasies and conversions, martyrdom and death, intense light, intense psychological moments.


    (...)
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    The sense of honor is of so fine and delicate a nature that
    it is only to be met with in minds which are naturally noble or
    cultivated by good examples and a refined education.
    - Sir Richard Steele

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    Thanks for posting that informative article, GroeneWolf; it gave a clear overview of the subject. I don't have much to add, except that while I think Rembrandt and Rubens epitomize Baroque painting, Flemish Baroque painter Anthony van Dyck's series of paintings on Saint Sebastian's martyrdom are very moving, too.
    'Well, what are you?" said the Pigeon. "I can see you're trying to invent something!" "I-I'm a little girl," said Alice, rather doubtfully. She found herself at last in a beautiful garden, among the bright flower-beds and the cool fountains.



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