Art & Style During The Baroque Period

Baroque is a period of art which can be described as a style in painting, sculpture, music and poetry. This western that bloomed from the 1600 to 1750s right after the Renaissance and Mannerism styles. Until the late 19th century the term Baroque was used to mean something odd and over exaggerated. Later on scholars and art critics have implemented it to define a stylistic designation. 

During this period art was to serve as a means of extending and stimulating the public’s faith in the church. So we can see the church walls and ceilings adorned with oil paintings which were spiritual. This was mostly because artists felt about the inadequate creation of religious paintings during Mannerism. One of the popular paintings completed in 1599–1600 for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of the French congregation, is “The Calling of Saint Matthew" done by Caravaggio. This commissioned work was one of three paintings that the artist created in a commission to depict the important moments in the life of St. Matthew. The work exhibits stark realism and intense sense of psychological drama. Caravaggio has depicted a moment of spiritual awakening and conversion with a spectacular use of chiaroscuro, the intense contrast of light and dark.

Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini was an Italian sculptor and architect who worked in Baroque style of art and is known for creating different degrees of reality in his dramatic sculptural works. In his work “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” he innovatively blended spirituality and sensuality to depict St. Teresa in a state of ecstasy and a male angel on the top left smiling down upon her, holding the spear that he will plunge into her heart. This radical transformation of a spiritual vision into a physical image with an illuminated backdrop of golden sun rays creates a theatrical setting of this life size sculpture.

The style of baroque rapidly spread to Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Austria & Poland. A famous Spanish painter working in this style is Diego Velazquez. His iconic painting called “Las Meninas” which translates to “Maids of Honor” is the most studied and analyzed work in western history. This enigmatic composition shows the five-year-old Infanta Margarita, the heir to the Spanish throne, surrounded by her ladies in waiting and other attendants in Velazquez's painting studio. The artist has mastered the use of space, strategically placed his subjects to create multiple visual planes and diagonals and used strong foreshortening to develop visual perspective.

Baroque works are marked by their sensuous grandeur, dramatic representations, spectacular dynamic movements, illusions and a commitment to religious commemoration.

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