What Is Baroque?

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Baroque art took place after the Renaissance through the 17th and 18th century as a Catholic counter-reformation to draw people back into the church. Understand the style of baroque art with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

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Video Transcript

Hi, Dr. Betty Brown here. The topic is Baroque. The term baroque refers to the time after, the historic period after The Renaissance. If 1492 is a good keystone date for The Renaissance, well The Baroque would come after that, in the late 16th, and particularly the 17th, and into the 18th centuries. After Martin Luther nailed his protest against the Catholic Church onto the door of his German church the protestant revolution led thousands upon thousands of people to leave the Catholic Church, and create a rather austere, earth-focused existence. To counter that the Catholic Church instigated the catholic counter-reformation, which sought to attract people back into the church, and enhance the embrace of those who were in the church. Catholic counter-reformation artists then are wildly distinct from the protestant reformation artists of northern Europe. Let me give you a couple of examples. Surely, the best known catholic reformation art artists was the Italian, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Bernini was amazingly gifted, a super genius, who could do sculpture, architecture, and painting, and he could mix them all up. I think of opera as being the quintessentially baroque art form, and Bernini used opera as a model for his best-known artwork, The Ecstasy of Santa Theresa. It's a marble sculpture of the catholic saint, who at the time of this incident I'm about to tell you about, was actually in her fifties, but Bernini portrays her as a lovely young woman in her twenties. Santa Theresa had a vision of the love of God appearing to her as a gorgeous young man, an angel who pierced her body time and again with the golden arrow of divine love. And she wrote about this vision, and how her response to it was physical, as well as spiritual. I hope you understand that I'm talking about a very sublimated, but very sexual experience, and Bernini portrays it as a very orgasmic moment. So, here we have Santa Theresa, and the angel piercing her body, and her very sexual response placed by Bernini on a stage-like podium. Flanking it are the donors, the patrons, the people who paid for this sculpture and placed it into a chapel in the church, and they are seated as if in box seats at the opera. So, we have painting, sculpture, architecture, light, and the reference to sexual pleasure as religious experience to draw people into the Catholic Church. That's the counter-reformation in Baroque. All the way up in northern Europe, almost the opposite. We see protestant artists creating simple images of people, places, and things in a very new capitalist environment for the merchants of Flanders, and Belgium, and Germany.


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