1. was richer, used deep colours, and used

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Last updated: September 26, 2019

1.    Introduction – Baroque Art Baroque painting consists of a range of styles varying from ClassicalReligious Grandeur, Realism and Easel Art maturing during the beginning of 1600and continuing throughout the mid 18th century. Therefore this new movement sawthe proliferation of major themes of Baroque painting such as the de-emphasisof the figure, a mastery of light and shadow, realism in all things and lastbut not least, new subjects like landscapes, still life and self-portraiture.Compared to Renaissance, Baroque art was mainly characterizedby outstanding drama which in paintings was richer, used deep colours, and usedintense light and very dark shadows. Therefore whilst Renaissance art tended toshow the moment before an event took place, Baroque artists chose the dramatic instantthat is the moment when the action was taking place.

This was intended to evokepassionate emotions to viewers opposed to the alternative calm reason that hadbeen practiced during the Renaissance.1Another important factor for painting style change was whenthe Holy Roman Church, in order to fill its role thus used paintings asreligious propaganda. Religious themed Baroque art tended to be larger in scaleand displayed publicly as monumental paintings fixed to highly decorated framesand ceilings frescoes affixed to walls in many palaces and churches.  Following the assertions made by the Councilof Trent, Baroque painting now started to manifest key elements depicting catholicdoctrine, either directly found in biblical scriptures or deriving indirectly fromancient mythological allegorical works.  Thisbrought a monumental approach with painters portraying a stronger sense ofmovement by the use of complex spirals and spatial compositions with the aid ofstronger coloured schemes in order to overwhelm and surprise viewers.

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  New techniques such as Caravaggio’sChiaroscuro alter termed as Tenebrism were developed to enhance the mood of paintings.  Amongst the greatest Baroque period painters onewill find Caravaggio, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Honthorst, dela Tour and Poussin with Caravaggio being primarily the successor of the HighRenaissance humanist painters. Michelangelo Merisi’s innovative realistic wayof portraying human figures painted directly from daily life and using of dramaticlight contrasts against a dark background stunned his contemporaries, inconsequence starting a new style in the history of painting. This type of Baroquepainting often dramatizes scenes using the chiaroscuro light effects which canbe clearly seen in works by Gerrit van Honthorst and Georges de La Tour. 2Now Baroque architecture was designed with the intension ofcreating spectacle and illusion.  Thestraight lines methods used in Renaissance were now seen replaced with morecomplex flowing curves. In architecture, domes and roofs were now enlarged incorporatingcomplex geometry with palaces and church interiors carefully constructed toproduce spectacular effects of light and shadow.  In other words Baroque painting therefore can be consideredas being that powerful style that was intended to influence people’s emotionsthus used to achieve dramatic results.

    2.     PaintingStyles and Types 17th Century paintings, sculpture and architecture known asBaroque, cannot be defined as a single style. In Painting there were at least three different styles of Baroque artand these can be classified as follows; 2.

1       Religious extravaganceThis was a triumphant, overstated and almost theatricalstyle of religious art, commissioned by European courts of the absolutemonarchs immediately after the Counter-Reformation.  This type of Baroque art is well representedby the bold visionary painter such as Caravaggio and by the grandiose images bythe Flemish master, Peter Paul Rubens. 2.2       Life-likeRealism A new more realistic approach to painting people wasdeveloped in this period time.

  This newapproach was mastered by Caravaggio and later by his followers.  The human appeal of Caravaggio’s figures, especiallywhen depicting religious painting was now done using a more realistic approach.Moreover works by other painters such as Velasquez constituted a new form ofmovement that characterized the art of the period formed the new baroque style.

2.3       Easel ArtThis 17th century style can be described as a genre consistingof still-life painting that mainly flourished in the Netherlands. Unlike thelarge scale Italian paintings, being generic or religious works, Baroque art inprotestant Holland was now being represented by a new form of easel art.

A formof genre painting purposely created for the wealthy middle class families.  This new Dutch Realist school of genre paintingalso led to an improved realism in portraiture and landscape paintings, withits composition varying from new forms of still life painting such aslandscapes, animal compositions to vanitas works.3  3.        Council of Trent held between 1545 and 1563 After the mid of the 16th century Italian Renaissance paintingin most countries with the exclusion of Venice sustained changes thus developinginto the new Mannerist movement. This style however is known to have concernedchurchmen as in a way they argued that this style was missing that appeal intendedfor the mass populace. As such the church made some pressure to containreligious art done from the 1530 onwards that resulted in the ruling of thefinal session of the Council of Trent held in 1563.

This included some short butrather vague passages concerning religious images, which were now being requestedto have greater impact on the development of Catholic art. Following the assertion made by the Council of Trent on how religiousart might serve faith, together with the rise in confidence in the RomanCatholic Church, it became clear that a new style of art was necessary in orderto support the Catholic Counter Reformation thus to fully transmit the miraclesand sufferings of the Saints to the people attending worship. This style had tobe more powerful, more expressive and done with a greater realism. Stronglyinfluenced by the views of the Jesuits, architecture, painting and sculpturewere now to work together to create a unified effect. The initial force occurredin Rome during the late 16th century with the works by Caravaggio. His presencesparked a new interest in realism as well as antique forms, both of which weretaken up and developed in sculpture first by Alessandro Algardi and later byGian Lorenzo Bernini. Peter Paul Rubens, who remained in Rome until 1608, was theonly great Catholic painter in the Baroque sphere, although Rembrandt and otherDutch artists are known to have been also influenced by both Caravaggism andBernini’s masterpieces.  By the end ofthe 17th century and after the 30 year war fought primarily in Central Europebetween 1618 and 1648, the Baroque style was in decline as was its principalsponsor, Italy.

The new European power was France, where a new and contrastingstyle of decorative art was beginning to emerge under the patronage of KingLouis XIV. 4.        The Persuasive Art by Caravaggio and its Influence on otherPaintersAfter the Counter Reformation, Caravaggio’s emerging abilityto depict new religious paintings highly depicting the human feelings anddramatic emotion in his Chiaroscuro style provided to be an importantinspiration for many artists throughout the ages which included masters such asGeorges de La Tour in France and Gerard van Honthorst in the Netherlands.4.1      Caravaggio(1571 – 1610) Italy                            The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599–1600)Caravaggio’s technique was one that highlighted realism throughwhich he remained faithful to truthful details and never beyond that normallyseen.

He created a type of realism that griped the spectator’s attention to thesymbolic meaning of the detailed content of the composition. His figures thus nowbecame the artistic objects used in the creation of contrast between light anddark. His scenes are more often than not comprises of a serious of elaboratedactions of events, thus reproducing scenes of realism. However it is impossibleto consider Caravaggio as just a realist and ignore his real innovation”…heightening of dramatic effect by the useof lighting that was always feigned and often highly artificial showing his absolutesense of chiaroscuro.” The subject matter of Caravaggio’s work does remainquite conventional in his preference for religious themes and thus his effectson “…theatrical realism may well be called Baroque.”4Composition of the Calling of Saint MatthewThis masterpiece depicts the moment when Jesus Christinspired Matthew to follow him to become an apostle. This painting was commissionedby Cardinal Matthew Contarelli, who provided resources and specific guidelinesfor the decoration of a chapel based on scenes from the life of Saint Matthew.

5The Calling of Saint Matthew shows the passage in the Gospel of Matthew(Matthew 9:9), when Jesus went into the custom house, saw Matthew at his seatand called to him, “Followme”. According to the Holy Scriptures, Matthew rose and followed him. The Calling of Saint Matthew can be divided into two parts.The figures on the right form a vertical rectangle while those on the leftcreate the horizontal chunk. In this painting Jesus is situated standing on theright hand side of this painting and is almost fully covered by the apostlePeter however is notable by his extended hand.Christ is pointing towards Levi, a tax-collector and isdepicted as the highly visible bearded man wearing a dark coloured beret. Leviis placed well to the left hand side of this painting however the viewer’sattention is drawn to him by the hands of Jesus and Paul jointly pointing athim but also by the intensity of the light shining on his face.

The other figuresthat appear in this painting are similar if not modelled by those persons inother of Caravaggio’s works, such as Cardsharps painted earlier.  The artist’s use of light and shadow adds drama to thisimage with all the figures engulfed by shadow with only the beaming light thatshines across the wall and highlights the fact of Matthew and the seated group.Caravaggio brought this canvas to life using vivid colours, bold contrasts ofyellow, reds, gold and greens including various intricate textures of fabric.  5.        The influence of Caravaggio in France In France, the Caravaggist Georges de la Tour is known tohave lived, worked and died in Luneville, Lorraine. Possibly he may havevisited Rome in around c.1620 but according to scholars his Caravaggism isknown to be originated from the Utrecht School. De la Tour became perhaps “…the most refined and gifted Caravaggist ofthem all.

” 6Compared to Rembrandt and Velasquez, De la Tour seems to be the closest toCaravaggio’s style but his approach in some way differed in spirit. La Tour hada preference, most probably influenced by Van Honthorst or maybe by Caravaggiohimself for the use of dramatically lit scenes using a single light sourceusing rich colours such as reds, yellows and browns, in many instancesusing the source of light originating from a lit candle as in his Magdalenewith the Smoking Flame.5.

1      Georgesde La Tour (1593 – 1652) France.                                                             Magdalene with the Smoking Flame,c. 1640De La Tour’s ‘ThePenitent Magdalene’ is depicted by the use of the biblical figure Mary as asinner. Mary Magdalene is described in the Holy Scriptures as a witness ofChrist renouncing the pleasures of the flesh for a life of penance and meditation.In this masterpiece, Mary Magdalene is painted holding askull on her lap, the emblem of mortality staring at a candle that probably representsher spiritual enlightenment. De La Tour’s style showing a citizen of the duchyof Lorraine in eastern France is much similar to Caravaggio’s paintings. This composition clearly has been organized around the flamewith Mary Magdalene depicted as if giving up luxury, vanity and seduction.

Thispainting is simply composed of a sensual Magdalene’s face in profile, anintense flame, a skull shown frontally, two thick books that one wonders ifthey are of the Holy Scriptures, and some sort of whip. Magdalene’s seem to be meditatingin this cramped space, highlighted only from the background darkness by the useof a flaming and smoking oil lamp. One of her arms leads her thoughts withoutdetour from her head to the skull. This circular connection is accuratelydefined by the artist with Magdalene’s thoughts using both her arms, onetouching her cheek and the other caressing a skull, an extraordinary technique thatDe la Tour used for staging such delicate life and death themes. 6.

        The influence of Caravaggio in Holland Gerard van Honthorst is known to have left Utrecht heading forItaly, where he stayed mostly in Rome, for almost eight years that is from 1612until 1620. He was brought up at the school of Abraham Bloemaert, who renouncedthe style of the Franckens for thatof Italian’s artists. Upon returning back to the Netherlands c.1620, he set upa school of Dutch artist who mainly used Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro style. Thegroup became known as the Dutch Caravaggisti and were mainly active in theUtrecht.According to scholars, van Honthorst is considered to be oneof the most famous and productive of all the Dutch Caravaggists. He have areputation for candle-lit scenes as indicated below in his masterpiece – The Matchmaker. After his return toUtrecht however he is known to gradually discontinue this Caravaggesquechiaroscuro, becoming primarily a court painter similar in style of Anthony VanDyck.

In Italy he was known as Gherardo delle Notti because of his dramaticnight scenes after the Caravaggesque manner. An explenary example of his chiaroscuroworks being the Christ before the High Priest. Van Honthorst was also largely accountablefor bringing Caravaggio’s novelty to Holland with especially by his Baroquedecorations at Huisten.

76.1      Gerardvan Honthorst (1592- 1656) Netherlands The Matchmaker(c.1625), showing the use of CarravagesqueVan Honthorst outstanding masterpiece ‘The Matchmaker’ is today permanently on display at the CentralMuseum in Utrecht. He shows great skill in reproducing scenes illuminated by asingle candle and adequately employing the chiaroscuro style. His masterpieces,mostly depicted in dark rooms show his ability in delicately depicting thecolour of human flesh which sometimes seem lost in the shadowy smoothness anduniform redness of tints.8When analysing this painting it clearly emerges evident that Van Honthorst was ina great way influenced by Caravaggio’s style. His most attractive pieces arethose in which he adopts the style of Caravaggio, those namely representingtaverns, with players, singers and eaters.

This painting is mainly composed or depicted by threecharacters, the lady holding a lute symbolizing eroticism. The central man isholding a purse in his left hand presumably loaded with money and seems to be willingto pay for some service. It is accounted that in the 17th century, Dutchpaintings in several occasions depict the lute symbolising prostitution. Theviewer will doubt whether this lady is offering to play the lute or perhapsoffering something else.

However the girl looks so cheerful and the dramaticuse of artificial candle light is outstanding.97.        ConclusionIn conclusion, I would like to quote Leonardo daVinci when he stated that “A paintershould begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in natureare dark except where exposed by the light.”10Maria Rzepinska in her “Tenebrism inBaroque Painting and Its ideological Background” clearly observes that theissue of light and darkness was not purely artistic in character, as itpenetrated into the intellectual life of the times, religion, philosophy andnatural science. 11The Baroque period can be therefore said to be the only time in Europeanhistory and culture in which the chiaroscuro aroused so much speculation andobservation.

In the Renaissance and Baroque, great strides were achieved inastronomy attaining new theories and clarifications such as the eclipses andphases of the moon. These ground breaking discoveries might be seen to be in harmonywith the development of the chiaroscuro trends where darkness was used as apositive value. The phenomenon once associated with negation, evil and bad wasnow equated with light, the symbol of the mighty God and everything good.Darkness in contrast with light was seen to bring out the illumination andhence the magnificence of light.

12The existential symbolism of light and darkness was expressed wholly throughthe subject matter and techniques of paintings by many Baroque artists such as Georgesde la Tour, Van Honthorst, Caravaggio and other artists, going well beyondgeographic and scholastic boundaries.1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baroque_painting2 ibid3 https://eberlyart.

wikispaces.com/file/view/Chapter+3+Baroque+Art.pdf4 https://www.caravaggio-foundation.org/biography.html5 http://www.

visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/calling-of-saint-matthew.htm6 https://ericwedwards.wordpress.

com/2013/08/02/the-art-of-caravaggio/7 https://ericwedwards.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/the-art-of-caravaggio/8 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/8655424253864219/9 http://oneyearonepaintingaday.blogspot.

com.mt/2012/04/gerard-van-honthorst-and-matchmaker.html10 Shearman, John. “Leonardo’sColour and Chiaroscuro”.Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte 25:1(1962): 13-47.http://www.

jstor.org/stable/1481484 (accessed November 17, 2015).11 Rzepinska, Maria. “Tenebrismin Baroque Painting and Its ideological Background.” Artibus et Historiae 7:13(1986):91-112. http://www.

jstor.org/stable/1483250(accessed November 18, 2015).12 ditto

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