Origin of Baroque Art (II)


Origin of Baroque Art (II)

Written by Alfonso Elizondo


Baroque art is a complicated phenomenon that includes social, political and religious elements. It grew out of Italian mannerism that was dominant in the first half of the sixteenth century. It abandoned classical standards, creating a world filled with movement and appealing to the human senses.

Baroque art has four basic features, namely: tenebrism, realism, lines and time. Tenebrism refers to the intentional contrast between light and darkness to add drama to artistic works. Realism and Naturalism are two of the other most important aspects of Baroque art, as in the case of Rubens’ ‘Saint George and the Dragon’, where both rider and horse have normal features but these are exaggerated in the work to make it more impactful.

Naturalism was also expressed in the Baroque through the use of unique details of daily life, as was the case of Caravaggio who portrayed places and individuals of all social classes without any distinction in their social or political levels. Naturalism involved locating the viewer within the painting, placing them as a part of the foreground or the central space. It also used facial expressions to highlight the moods or emotions of the figures in the painting, or placed them in the painting as if they were part of the shadows.

In Baroque art, lines help when conveying movement, so using them is common in several works of the period. For example, to represent wing taper, they lessen the length of the lines in the drawing and create the illusion of expanded space. With vertical, horizontal or uneven lines, the human eye can be tricked and space can be added to the work. The lines also create breadth in Baroque art with curved figures and horizontal layers.

In addition, many Baroque artists knew the concept of time and used it to convey the force of nature and the role of time in the process of human life.

Addendum: I will continue with another instalment on Baroque art by looking at what happened at the Roman Catholic Church’s Council of Trent.