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Art Movement in Focus: Baroque – An Introduction

Welcome to Art Movement in Focus! In this section, we explore significant art movements in history through a series of articles dedicated to each movement. Here’s looking at Baroque.

Baroque – An Introduction

Art has constantly evolved over the ages, one art form gives way to the birth of another. The Renaissance and Baroque art movements were two such genres that existed side by side, yet with distinct features.

Renaissance thrived on the growing cult of humanity and its expression of it. The period from the late 16th  to 17th and early 18th centuries saw European artists and architects increasingly adopting an elaborate style. The meaning of the term ‘Baroque’ evolved from the Portuguese word ‘barroco’ or Spanish ‘barrueco’.

Describing an irregular or imperfectly shaped pearl, this usage still survives in the jewelers term baroque pearl. Or from the Italian ‘barocco’, which philosophers used during the Middle Ages, describing an obstacle in schematic logic. This particular approach is characterized by an ornate, and deliberately stylised aesthetic, evoking ethereality which aims to inspire awe.

Culturally, the Baroque period remains one of the most celebrated cultural movements in Western art history. The effects were felt in art, music, architecture, and literature. A time that spells uncommon grandeur and opulence. The movement expanded across Italy and other European countries between 1600 and 1750. The origins however lay in Rome and were particularly favoured in France, Spain, and Austria.

The hallmark of the style is a sense of Drama. This comes across as sharp contrasts between beaming light and looming shadows. The churches were an example of an emphasis on the glory of Catholicism, mixing with religious symbolism. The designs had large central space, high domes accentuating flowing light to illuminate the space below. The dome was one of the most important features of the architecture. It was showing the union between heaven and earth. The rich and intricate interiors were filled with ornamentation.

This is a way to allow for an immersive experience in a sacred space. One of the tools that were popular – was ‘chiaroscuro’, which means the play of light and dark. This was key to creating dramatic tension.

The Dialogue

As mentioned before, the Baroque period overlapped with the Italian Renaissance. The two movements shared some stylistic similarities. It was interesting to see how they both played out. Both Baroque and Renaissance artists entertained rich color and realism. They employed religious and or mythological subject matter. Subsequently, both styles favoured balance and symmetry. However, Baroque was characterised by its extravagance—in both its art and architecture.

OUR TOP 6 Baroque Artists :

Through our 6 top artists we take a look at the flamboyant style, exploring the evolution of exuberant art.

Baroque, brought a new era for European sculpture. It was led largely by the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Through his work, he emphasized sensual richness, dramatic realism, intense emotion, and movement.

  1. Caravaggio
  2. Rembrandt
  3. Gentileschi
  4. Poussin
  5. Rubens
  6. Diego Velázquez


One of the defining features of the Baroque style, was real or implied movement. The passion to create drama was woven with producing fluidity and motion. There was an endeavour to represent infinity. There were several techniques that were introduced by artists. One was Quadro riportato (frescos that incorporated the illusion of being composed of a series of framed paintings); also quadrature (ceiling painting), and trompe l’oeil techniques.

The blurring of the boundaries between painting, sculpture, and architecture was a signature of the movement.

Michelangelo Merisi da Carravaggio
The Calling of St. Matthew

The Calling of St. Matthew 1599-1600, Caravaggio ( 1571-1610)
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Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp 1632, Rembrandt ( 1606-1669) Image courtesy:

Artemisia Gentileschi
Susanna and the Elders
c. 1610

Susanna and the Elders (c. 1610), Artemisia Gentieschi (1593-1656)
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Nicolas Poussin
The Death of Germanicus

The Death of Germanicus 1627, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)
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Peter Paul Rubens
Venus and Adonis
c. 1630

Venus and Adonis, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
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Diego Velázquez
Las Meninas

Las Meninans 1656, Diego Velásquez ( 1599-1660) ,
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For more such quick introductions and lists regarding Art History, visit Art Movement in Focus.

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