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Baroque is an art style that flourished in Europe between 1600 and 1750. It originated in Italy during the Counter-Reformation period and developed in most parts of Europe that believe in Catholicism. Later, with the spread of Catholicism, its influence went far to Latin American and Asian countries. As an artistic style with far-reaching influence in time and space, the rise of Baroque was closely related to the religion of that time. Not only in painting, Baroque is represented in the whole field of art, including music, architecture, and decorative arts, and its connotations are also very complex. The most fundamental characteristic of Baroque is to break the seriousness, subtlety, and balance of the Renaissance period, advocating luxury and grandeur and focusing on expressing strong emotions. Baroque artworks are warm and tense, with a piercing and exciting artistic effect.

Origin and Influence

In the seventeenth century, Europe expanded, plundered overseas colonies to accumulate wealth, and advocated luxurious enjoyment in life. Hence, architecture, music, and art also required luxury and vividness, rich in a passionate mood. The word "baroque" is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese word for "deformed pearl" (Barroso). As an adjective, it means "vulgar and messy." Europeans used the word to refer to "works lacking the balanced character of classicism." It was initially a derogatory term for people who advocated classical art in the 18th century and was different from the Renaissance style in the 17th century. Today, the word has lost its derogatory implication. Baroque emerged in Italy in the second half of the 16th century, reached its heyday in the 17th century, and gradually declined in the 18th century. Baroque positively influenced Rococo in the 18th century and Romanticism in the 19th century. The Baroque style was strongly supported by the Church and was mainly popular in Italy, Flanders, Spain, and other countries where Catholicism was prevalent. The works of Italian master Bernini and Flemish painter Rubens reflect the most brilliant achievements of Baroque art in the 17th century.

Characteristics of Baroque

1. Luxury and Opulence

Baroque architecture combines art and color boldly and uses various precious materials. Baroque buildings are glorious, luxurious, and beautiful, have a strong artistic atmosphere, and are breathtaking.

2. Unconventional

Baroque architecture is gorgeous in appearance and ingenious and unique in design. Designers used a lot of curved surfaces, breaking the dignified and rigorous approach of conventional buildings.  

3. Rich Imagination

Baroque broke the rational tranquil harmony. It had a strong romantic color and emphasized the artist's rich imagination.

4. Close to Nature

In the late Baroque era, more architects tended to incorporate natural elements. They built a lot of villas, gardens, and many city squares. The buildings became more spacious, and the use of natural elements increased. The buildings were more inclined to pursue the harmony between man and nature.

5. Space and Perspective

Baroque paid much attention to the sense of space and three-dimensionality of works.

6.  Religious

Religious themes occupy a dominant position in Baroque art.

7. Away from Life and Times

Most Baroque artists tended to stay away from life and times. For example, in some zenith paintings, the figures are insignificant, like some patterns.

Baroque paintings are magnificent, full of movement, and have great perspective variation (such as foreshortening), dramatic composition, and contrast of ideal light. Dramatic and stage-like are characteristics of Baroque paintings.

Representative Artists

Caravaggio (1573-1610), a pioneer of Baroque painting, is characterized by his use of light to obtain a dramatic effect on the painting, as well as the use of chiaroscuro to set off a real sense of space, and abandoned the depiction of details. His approach to nature was intuitive, using brutish or unsophisticated people as models for his portraits. He took a different approach to still life painting. His masterpieces include The Supper at Emmaus, The Entombment of Christ, Basket of Fruit, and Bacchus. Wild, irascible, irritable, and short-lived, Caravaggio wanted to break away from stereotypes and rethink art and was stylistically known as a "naturalist."

Carracci (1560-1609), an Italian painter of the Baroque style, diligently practiced classical beauty. His masterpiece includes the altarpiece, The Dead Christ Mourned, in which the light shines on the Christ, and the overall technique of arousing the viewer's emotion, which is of Baroque style. The composition is simple and harmonious, somewhat sentimental, but avoids reminding people of the horrors of death and the pain of suffering.

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