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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Baroque, a basic description

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

From the middle of the XVIth century XVIIIth century, the Baroque style marked European art and architecture, not to mention the fields of music and dance. Characterized by a taste for movement, dramatization, decorative exuberance, the Baroque is a complex aesthetic paradigm which aims to surprise and move the spectators. A large-scale movement, it quickly spread from Italy to the major European countries. Rubens, Vélasquez, Le Caravage, Le Bernin. These few famous names reveal the hold on a European scale of the Baroque, which could be defined as a spirit contrary to that of classicism.

History of movement

Italy is the land of origin of the Baroque, a current that emerged around 1600. This style full of grandeur is encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, which wishes to respond to the Protestant Reformation by touching the faithful in the heart. By what means? By appealing to the senses, in particular the view, and paying particular attention to the emotions felt by the viewer.

The baroque likes dramaturgy. It must impress the visitor to the palaces with complex architectures and trompe-l'oeil decorations; overwhelm collectors by giving them the feeling of owning rare and original works. The word baroque comes from the Portuguese term barroco used to designate pearls with surprising or imperfect shapes. It is a triumphant art that rejects austerity and humility. The terminology of "baroque" is after the period: it is mainly used from the XVIII th century, first in a pejorative understanding and laudatory during the XIX th century.

The abandonment of the classical rigor in favor of a more fluid expression, more psychological, is to the account of the upheavals taking place in European thought around the XVIIth century. The Copernican revolution profoundly changed the perception of the cosmos. Time no longer appears so linear, Europe discovers that it is not alone on earth but that other worlds (Central America and South America) also inhabit it. These discoveries, sources of destabilization and questioning, are expressed in the baroque movement. Death is perceived in its tragic dimension. The man runs to excess, cultivates illusion, and ostentatious to flee a destiny, which seems to him more uncertain.

In the field of fine arts, several famous names are associated with the Baroque. Caravaggio is one of them. Departing from the principles enacted during the Renaissance, he cultivated dramatization by clair-obscur and animated the characters of violent movements. Rubens, too, belongs to this current, which has spread in Flanders. His dazzling palette is matched by shapes that are also tormented. These artists attach great importance to the realism of the representation, but in an excessive manner, as if they were scenes in trompe-l'oeil, plunging the spectator into the theatricality of the action.


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