1. used paintings as religious propaganda. Religious themed Baroque

1.    
Introduction    

1.1       Baroque Art

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Baroque
painting consists of a range of styles varying from Classical Religious
Grandeur, Realism and Easel Art maturing during the beginning of 1600 and
continuing throughout the mid 18th century. Therefore this new movement saw the
proliferation of major themes of Baroque painting such as the de-emphasis of
the figure, a mastery of light and shadow, realism in all things and last but
not least, new subjects like landscapes, still life and self-portraiture.

Compared
to Renaissance, Baroque art was mainly characterized by outstanding drama which
in paintings was richer, used deep colours, and used intense light and very dark
shadows. Therefore whilst Renaissance art tended to show the moment before an
event took place, Baroque artists chose the dramatic instant that is the moment
when the action was taking place. This was intended to evoke passionate
emotions to viewers opposed to the alternative calm reason that had been practiced
during the Renaissance.

Another
important factor for painting style change was when the Holy Roman Church, in
order to fill its role thus used paintings as religious propaganda. Religious
themed Baroque art tended to be larger in scale and displayed publicly as
monumental paintings fixed to highly decorated frames and ceilings frescoes
affixed to walls in many palaces and churches.  Following the assertions made by the Council of Trent, Baroque painting
now started to manifest key elements depicting catholic doctrine, either
directly found in biblical scriptures or deriving indirectly from ancient mythological
allegorical works.  This brought a monumental
approach with painters portraying a stronger sense of movement by the use of
complex spirals and spatial compositions with the aid of stronger coloured
schemes in order to overwhelm and surprise viewers.  New techniques such as Caravaggio’s Chiaroscuro alter termed as
Tenebrism were developed to enhance the mood of paintings.  Amongst the greatest Baroque period painters one
will find Caravaggio, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Honthorst, de la
Tour and Poussin with Caravaggio being primarily the successor of the High
Renaissance humanist painters. Michelangelo Merisi’s innovative realistic way of
portraying human figures painted directly from daily life and using of dramatic
light contrasts against a dark background stunned his contemporaries, in
consequence starting a new style in the history of painting. This type of Baroque
painting often dramatizes scenes using the chiaroscuro light effects which can be
clearly seen in works by Gerrit van Honthorst and Georges de La Tour. 

Now Baroque
architecture was designed with the intension of creating spectacle and
illusion.  The straight lines methods
used in Renaissance were now seen replaced with more complex flowing curves. In
architecture, domes and roofs were now enlarged incorporating complex geometry with
palaces and church interiors carefully constructed to produce spectacular
effects of light and shadow. 

In
other words Baroque painting therefore can be considered as being that powerful
style that was intended to influence people’s emotions thus used to achieve
dramatic results.  

1.     Painting
Styles and Types

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

2.1       Religious extravagance

This
was a triumphant, overstated and almost theatrical style of religious art,
commissioned by European courts of the absolute monarchs immediately after the
Counter-Reformation.  This type of
Baroque art is well represented by the bold visionary painter such as
Caravaggio and by the grandiose images by the Flemish master, Peter Paul
Rubens.

2.2       Life-like Realism

A new
more realistic approach to painting people was developed in this period
time.  This new approach was mastered by Caravaggio
and later by his followers.  The human appeal
of Caravaggio’s figures, especially when depicting religious painting was now done
using a more realistic approach. Moreover works by other painters such as Velasquez
constituted a new form of movement that characterized the art of the period formed
the new baroque style.

2.3       Easel Art

This 17th
century style can be described as a genre consisting of still-life painting
that mainly flourished in the Netherlands. Unlike the large scale Italian paintings,
being generic or religious works, Baroque art in protestant Holland was now
being represented by a new form of easel art. A form of genre painting purposely
created for the wealthy middle class families. 
This new Dutch Realist school of genre painting also led to an improved
realism in portraiture and landscape paintings, with its composition varying
from new forms of still life painting such as landscapes, animal compositions to
vanitas works.