Art Movements in History: Baroque


The Baroque art movement is one of the most prominent European styles of sculpture, painting, music, and architecture. It took place and initially started in the 17th century, and the movement was supported by the Catholic Church as a response to the rise of Protestantism (Kevorkian 79). The latter mainly utilized a simpler style, and thus, there was a solid contrasting style between these two religious institutions. It primarily originated in Italian buildings, which started to use Baroque standards that were imposed by the church. The given style quickly translated to other forms of art, such as paintings and music. Currently, it is used in works of art to determine the style that dominated European art between Mannerism and Rococo, that is, from about 1600 to the beginning of the 18th century (Kevorkian 92). Art inherited dynamism and deep emotionality from Baroque mannerism, and solidity, and splendor from the Renaissance. That is, the features of both styles have harmoniously merged into one single whole.


The most characteristic features of the Baroque are its striking flamboyance and dynamism, which matched the self-confidence and aplomb of the newly empowered Roman Catholic Church. Baroque architecture is characterized by the scope and unity of forms, and they are highly fluid, complex, and curvilinear. Large-scale colonnades, an abundance of sculptures on the facades, and in the interior design of buildings, volutes, ripples, and beam facades are often found. The domes of buildings take on complex shapes, and they often have several tiers. Typical details for the Baroque style include sculptures of the Caryatid and Mascaron (Kevorkian 154). From the architecture of the High Renaissance, the Baroque style inherited an attraction to the unusual and surprising. The predominant colors in style were pastels, and contrasting colors were often combined to form rich color palettes. For baroque architecture, the complexity of the form of plans is characteristic in comparison with the Renaissance plans. Baroque interiors are distinguished by their splendor and unexpected spatial and light effects, an abundance of curves, and plastically curving lines.

The clarity of classical forms is contrasted here with sophistication in shaping. Sculpture, painting, and painted wall surfaces are widely used in architecture. The architectural styles of the Baroque were derived from the Renaissance forms but significantly surpassed them in complexity, picturesqueness, and diversity. The heavily loosened facades had profiled cornices, colossal columns running through the entire facade, semi-columns, and pilasters. No detail in this architectural style is independent, as it was in the architecture of the Renaissance. It is stated that art needs to be assessed and digested to generate full appreciation and understanding of it (Getlein 134). Each element here is part of something common and larger. Everything is subject to the general architectural concept, which includes both interior decoration and garden and park ensembles.

The persistent interest of modern people in the culture of the Baroque is because today an increasing number of works of art include elements of Baroque culture. Moreover, this process also penetrates the field of worldview and fills the philosophical ideas of that time, reproduces new designations in the interpretation of real beauty. This undoubtedly leads to the implementation of activities aimed at achieving an illusory ideal in the forms of reproduction of visual art. Images of stylization in the details of the Baroque culture on the example of modern cinema, fine and photographic art can serve as such ideals. They are fixed in the mind of a person, reflect a mythical perception of the reality of the surrounding world, and generate cultural interest. They are also an instrument of art, for which, in most cases, it is not the essence and internal content that is important, but only the external features of the design in the smallest pictorial features that have a visual impact on a person, thereby prompting and arousing someone’s interest.


Outside Italy, the Baroque style took its deepest roots in Catholic countries, and, for example, in Britain, its influence was negligible. The origins of the tradition of Baroque art in the painting are two great Italian painters – Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci, who created the most significant works in the last decade of the 16th century and the first decade of the 17th century. Italian painting of the late 16th century is characterized by unnaturalness and stylistic uncertainty. Caravaggio and Carracci, with their art, returned integrity, and expressiveness to Italian painting (Kevorkian 128). In the case architectural aspect of the Baroque art movement, Carlo Maderna was among the ones who initially came from Mannerism, but later, established his stylistic interpretative expression of art. He was the primary creator of the Santa Susanna Roman Church’s façade, where the given style was actively used to depict the catholic symbols.


Baroque art was fueled by local traditions and people through the introduction of local media elements. In some countries, it became more extravagant, as, for example, in Spain and Latin America, where the style of architectural decoration developed. In Catholic Flanders, Baroque art flourished in the work of Rubens; it had a less noticeable influence on Protestant Holland. True, Rembrandt’s mature works, extremely lively and dynamic, are marked by the impact of Baroque art. In France, it expressed itself most vividly in the service of the monarchy, not the church. Louis XIV understood the importance of art as a means of glorifying royalty (Kevorkian 70). His advisor in this area was the direction of the painters and decorators who worked at the palace of Louis at Versailles. Versailles, with its grandiose mix of opulent architecture, sculpture, painting, decorative, and landscape art, is one of the most impressive examples of the fusion of the arts. Baroque art contributed to the creation of theatrical effects achieved by lighting, false perspective, and dramatic stage sets.

Contrary to the requirements of the Cathedral of Trent, the Baroque in art and architecture sought not so much to teach as to captivate and delight. Thanks to the dominance of this aesthetic attitude, the Baroque preserved the personal integrity of a person in the face of the catastrophic collapse of the Renaissance worldview. It was also important for the professional isolation of all spheres of activity, the discovery with the help of a telescope and a microscope of the infinitely large and infinitely small worlds, the penetration of anatomists and physiologists into the human body.

The irrationality of Baroque works only in sensory perception seems to be opposite to the rationalism of philosophical and scientific thought. The artistic activity of the luminaries of the Baroque was carried out under the sign of ratio. The apotheosis of rationality in the arts was the opera house in all its components. These ranged from libretto, music, and vocal technique to impresario’s finances tiered auditorium architecture, and scenographic wonders. Having parted with the Renaissance ideal of perfection in cognitive and creative activity, the Baroque gave impetus to striving beyond the limits of the given and achieved, which has not dried up to the present. From the beginning of European history to the Napoleonic Wars, the Baroque era stands out as the peak of aggressiveness. However, despite a great many horrific events, the Baroque is strikingly optimistic. Since this era, Western man thinks of death not as an impersonal fatal force, but as a private event, the probability of which at any moment partly depends on himself. The monuments of Baroque architecture in Asia, South and North America testify to the Baroque as the first style of globalization.

Formal Analysis

The painting is Caravaggio’s attempt to depict one of the most iconic events in the Christian religion, where Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The picture in Figure 1 illustrates the moment when an angel interrupts the process, thus saving the boy. The painting uses one of the most common Baroque stylistic approaches, where it conveys emotions and is hyper-realistic. In addition, the colors used are bright and clearly outlined, which are the key distinctive features of this art movement. Facial expressions of the characters explicitly express the corresponding emotions. For example, Isaac’s face exhibits fear and panic, whereas Abraham’s face demonstrates confusion and a certain level of determination due to his commitment to God. The angel’s gesture precisely illustrates that it is the moment when he is pointing at a goat to complete the sacrificial ritual without Isaac’s involvement.

Works Cited

Caravaggio, Michelangelo. Sacrifice of Isaac. 1603, Uffizi, Florence.

Getlein, Mark. Living with Art. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2019. Print.

Kevorkian, Tanya. Baroque Piety: Religion, Society, and Music in Leipzig, 1650-1750. New York: Routledge, 2017. Print.

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