Recently, we’ve become fascinated by the Baroque art that flourished in Europe and Latin America from the late 16th century until the early 18th century.
Extravagant in Concept, Elaborate in Detail
First appearing in Rome, Italy, around the year 1600, it is a debated fact that the Baroque style was a response to the religious tensions and divisions occurring between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
Some historians claim that as a part of its campaign against the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church demanded artists create emotionally appealing paintings and sculptures that everyone – including people who were illiterate – could understand. The Roman Catholic Church wanted to produce new art that displayed intensity and greatness of scale, and it was meant to evoke passion and emotion.
Movement, Tension and Energy
This new style eventually offered inspiration for artists who appeared a generation later; sculptors like Bernini and great painters like Rubens, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Theatrical and even flamboyant, the painters, sculptors and architects considered to work in the Baroque style displayed powerful emotions in their work.
Painters used rich color, intense light and dark shadows to convey drama, and they depicted scenes at the height of dramatic tension. Straight lines became bent, oval shapes began to arch and the emergence of ornaments began to cover plain surfaces. In sculpture, a new dynamism and energy appeared in the human form.
Grandeur was achieved through scale in the architecture of this period, with massive columns, large arches, domes and impressive empty spaces becoming the trend. Sculptors, not carpenters, designed the large, imposing furniture of this style, and interiors were extravagantly furnished with rich tapestries, silks, gold and silver.
The extravagance of the Baroque style is a stark contrast to the simple elegance of modern design. Yet this is precisely what we admire about Baroque. The art and design produced from this era was intense; it possessed sensuality, emotion, demanded virtuosity and was daring enough to create on a grand scale.