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Baroque Art

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Submitted By dallashyde
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Unit 5 Individual Project
Dallas Hyde

Three works of art in the Baroque Style are presented. Thoughts are given about the visual appearance of the three pieces. A summary of the artist’s personal philosophies of art is attempted. We explore these works and how they fit into the Baroque time period. The three works are then compared and contrasted in form and content.

Baroque Art
We will look at three fine pieces of art from three great artists from the Baroque Period. Each artist though separated by hundreds of miles or decades painted using light and darkness for dramatic effect. The first painting example is a Pieta from the Baroque Period. It was done by Annibale Carracci from Bologna, in Northern Italy. Annibale’s Pieta shows Mary holding her son after he was crucified. The edges of the painting are dark and your eyes are drawn to Christ through Carracci’s use of light. Christ is the main figure of the painting but his mother is at the center. Mary is painted in a soft blue in contrast to the pale Christ. She has a look of sorrow and her left hand is out stretched like she is questioning why this has happened. Two small angels are also in the painting, one holds Jesus’ hand while the other inspects the crown of thorns. Carracci was one of the most admired painters of his time and helped create the Baroque style (Christiansen, Keith. 2003).He was a prominent figure in the movement against Mannerism. He founded the Accademia degli Incamminati (“Academy of the Progressives”) with his brother and cousin. This academy championed a return to nature coupled with the study of the great painters Correggio, Titian and Veronese. Late in the fifteenth century the Carracci’s were painting the most innovative pictures in Europe. Annibale created a new broken brushwork style to capture movement and the effects of light on form (Christiansen, Keith. 2003). This new style was used to make many art works for the Catholic Church. Annibale’s masterpiece was a fresco painted on the ceiling of the Pope’s Farnese Palace. This work continued to inspire young painters and was indispensable as a source of figure design and technical procedure for young painters well into the 18th century (Christiansen, Keith. 2003). Painters like the Carracci’s used their influence on young student artists at the Academy of the Progressives to further the Baroque style. With the backing of the Pope, Annibale’s works would be seen by countless aspiring artists.
The Second example of a painting from the Baroque Period is The Entombment by Caravaggio. The group standing on the stone are symmetrical .The figures in this painting are bowed and bent toward Christ. They look shocked at the death of their friend and teacher. At the same time they look humbled by his death. The people look like someone that you could meet on the street; not beautiful and heroic like they would have been depicted in the High Renaissance style. Caravaggio uses the contrast of light and dark to bring out the drama of the moment.
Caravaggio disdained the masters of the Renaissance and the mannerist style (Sayre 2010). He led a wild and bohemian existence. He refused to portray the human individual as sublime, beautiful and heroic (Christiansen, Keith 2003).
In Caravaggio’s lifetime the Catholic Church was the force driving what was acceptable as art in his day. In the Baroque Period, religious art production gave an artist the ability to earn money and prestige.
The third example of a painting from Baroque Period is Rembrandt’s Belsazar. Rembrandt was born in Leiden Holland in 1606. The painting shows King Belsazar and his guests having a feast using sacred items that were taken from the Jewish temple. While in the midst of this feast a disembodied hand wrote MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN (“God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it”). Rembrandt uses light to great effect in this painting. The central figure, King Belsazar is staring in fright at the hand, as it is writing on the wall. Everyone in the painting that has noticed the writing is shocked and frightened. The outline of the painting is dark, Rembrandt is using chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is the contrast of light and dark to create atmosphere, drama, and emotion (Sayre, 2010).
In a letter to a patron, Rembrandt offered the only surviving explanation of what he sought to achieve through his art, which he stated was “the greatest and most natural movement” translated from die meeste ende di naetuereelste beweechgelickheijt (encyclopedia.stateuniversity, 2010). His goal in his paintings was to portray movement as being natural. He didn’t want the subjects of his paintings in poses that looked contrived as was the case in Mannerist style. (Sayre, 2010).
At the Utrecht school in Holland the 16th-century Italianate tradition persisted in its outstanding members most notably Gerard van Honthorst. He went to Italy and was influenced by Caravaggio. The Utrecht artists, with their dramatic rendering of light and shade, influenced Pieter Lastman. As Rembrandt’s teacher Pieter in turn provided the background for the greatest figure in the history of Dutch art.
All three of examples that I have chosen are religious in nature. Each depicts a scene from a story in the bible. The first two show a scene of Christ after he is crucified. The third depicts a story from Daniel in the Old Testament. Each use light and darkness for dramatic effect. These paintings show the progression of chiaroscuro from its early use, to Rembrandt’s mastery of it. Each painting has great detail and all the characters look very lifelike.
The difference I have detected in the paintings is the level of emotion that is evident in the characters of each painting. The Pieta shows the least emotion of the three. You can see the sorrow on Mary’s face but it is not as powerful as the emotions in the faces of The Entombment.
Belsazar’s characters portray even more emotion than the other paintings. His characters emotions are easily seen. The people in the last two paintings portray more movement. The use of light for dramatic effect is most evident in the Rembrandt. In the Pieta, the characters look perfect, almost too beautiful when comparing them to characters in The Entombment. Caravaggio and Rembrandt’s characters look like real people you could meet on the street today.
When studying these paintings I learned to appreciate the use of chiaroscuro. Also, I learned that the power and influence of the church was very evident in the Baroque Period. Many artists must have depended on the financial support of the church. Without this money and influence who knows how many masterpieces would never have been made.
Artists are always learning from their predecessor’s. Annibale Carracci was influenced by the great masters of the Renaissance, especially Correggio, Titan, and Veronese (Christiansen, Keith 2003). Annibale Carracci’s Academy of the Progressives and his paintings had a profound effect on other artists of his generation. It is thought that Caravaggio may have been influenced by the earlier paintings of Annibale Carracci, just as it is generally thought that Rembrandt was indirectly affected by the previous works of Caravaggio through his teacher Pieter (Sayre, 2010). One thing that is assured, art always changes and evolves with the times.

Christiansen, Keith. "Annibale Carracci (1560–1609)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

Rembrandt (Harmenszoon van Rijn) – Retrieved on March 1, 2010 from Works, Life, Periods, themes, and styles, Museum collections, A selection of famous works

Christiansen, Keith. "Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) (1571–1610) and his Followers". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

"Dutch art” retrieved on 3-13- 2010 from . The Seventeenth Century." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.© 1994, 2000-2006, on Infoplease. © 2000–2007 Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease.

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