Baroque is a period of artistic style that started in 1600 in Rome and spread through all of Europe until its end in 1730. The name of the period translates roughly as ‘large, irregular shaped pearl’. As it is often the case with names of art periods or styles, it was coined by old-fashioned critics who still cherished the clear and sober rationality of Renaissance.
Baroque was the complete opposite. Baroque was dramatic, noisy, eccentric, excessive, emotional, and tense, with an emphasis on details. Its success was partly due to the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent decision of the Roman Catholic Church to communicate religious themes directly and with emotions. Yet, the opulence of Baroque also suited aristocracy and their representational desires. After all, we speak about the period of Absolutism, Counter-Reformation and Catholic Revival.
Where Renaissance aimed at the rational mind, Baroque aims at the senses of the audience. Where Renaissance usually chose the moment before an event took place, Baroque artists went for the point of most drama. They wanted to evoke emotion and passion. Hence, the art is direct, simple, obvious, melodramatic, heroic and broad with a touch of sensationalism. It glorifies the church and monarchy. It features rich, deep color, intense light and dark shadows. The painted gestures are broad and resemble stage gestures (opera was a very popular art form of this time). Different parts of the body appear to move in different directions, what implies motion and the feeling of being torn apart from emotions. Baroque art is further rich of details and characterized through convincing rendering of cloth and skin textures. In later years the details became more decorative when Baroque gave way to Rococo.
Among the greatest artist of Baroque are: Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velasquez, Poussin, Vermeer, and van Dyck