Fine Art Question Number 1

Art & Design
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Explain the differences between Baroque and Italian Renaissance art. Talk about the qualities found in architecture of this time and how it related to the  work of sculptures.

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Jan 15th, 2015

Two distinct periods stand out when talking about art and great masters –Baroque and Renaissance. Works created during these times were very similar to each other but with distinct differences. Perhaps best way is to enumerate differences between the two.
Renaissance period for art began in 1940s in Italy, which today is considered one of the most important in Europe’s history as it marked transition from medieval times into early modern age. Baroque era followed in 1600s, as another transformation came about when the church began to divide between Protestants and Roman Catholics. So, many creations in this period were recreations of famous works in the Renaissance era.  

Many modern artists and ordinary people are familiar with Renaissance artist like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Baroque period masters, however, are not so well known to many people. Compared to Renaissance creations, it was considered strange and odd. There was a strong contention that there was no work of great value during Baroque period. But this was disproved by acknowledgement of works by artists like Bernini and Caravaggio. One reason for dislike of Baroque art was that many painters and sculptors sought to recreate previous works of Renaissance masters.  

The greatest difference between these two eras in art history is in the style used by artists. Renaissance painters and sculptors were among the first to use perspective in their work. This allowed them to give more realism to their creations. However, this focus on adding depth to their work has made paintings & sculptures seem to lack emotions and failed to capture emotions which it should depict. This ‘stillness’ was solved by Baroque artists as seen in their famous works. They focussed more on drama of subject they were trying to showcase.

This opposite treatment of a subject is displayed in statue of David which Renaissance man Michelangelo first sculpted and recreated by Bernini of Baroque movement. First one shows emotionless David heading into battle with Goliath, which is exact opposite of Bernini’s work, which showed an intense David raring to fight the giant. This contrasting style shows biggest disparity between the two periods.

Differences between Baroque art and Renaissance art:

Renaissance art began in early 1400s, while Baroque art came later in 1600s.

Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci are more famous than Baroque masters Bernini and Caravaggio.

Renaissance art works did not fully depict human emotion, while Baroque art focused more on showing them.

Among general characteristics of Baroque art are a sense of movement, energy and tension. Strong contrasts of light and shadow enhance dramatic effects of many paintings and sculptures. Even baroque buildings, with their undulating walls and decorative surface elements, imply motion with contrasts in light & colour. Intense spirituality is present in works of baroque art; in Roma Catholic countries, for example, scenes of ecstasies, martyrdoms or miraculous apparitions are common. Infinite space is often suggested in baroque paintings or sculptures, no longer the contained units they were in the Renaissance. Realism is another integral feature of baroque art; figures in paintings are not types but individuals with their own personalities. Artists of this time were concerned with inner workings of the mind and attempted to portray passions of the soul on faces they painted and sculpted. Intensity and immediacy of baroque art and its individualism & details observed in such things as convincing rendering of cloth and skin textures make it a compelling period of western art. Baroque art falls into the period of Counter-Reformation led by Catholic Church against Protestants. Much of Baroque art, especially in Italy, reflects reaction to Mannerism and also social turmoil of the time.

Renaissance art, painting, sculpture, architecture, music and literature produced during 14th, 15th and 16th centuries in Europe under combined influences of an increased awareness of nature, a revival of classical learning and a more individualistic view of man.

Baroque art style:

Strong perspective effects

Dramatic colour

Dramatic light and dark (chiaroscuro & tenebrism)

Movement of figures

Broken and agitated draperies

Loose impasto

Dense and detailed compositions

Differences between Baroque and Renaissance:

1. Recessional compositions (not planar)

a. Baroque art has continuous overlapping of figures & elements whereas the Renaissance has clear defined planes that recede in depth. Baroque art has a sweeping diagonal element that crosses many planes.

b. Figures in Baroque art are merged better through chiaroscuro which blends edges of each form. This creates a mystical union of all figures/elements. Renaissance art treats each figure in isolation and they appear as discrete objects. Colour contrasts, outlines, contours or hard edges contribute to this linearity.

2. Open form

a. Figures in Baroque art seem projected out into viewer’s space

3. Unity rather than multiplicity

a. Baroque art uses light to create meaning for its purely naturalistic effects or to reveal form. Light sources are not natural or there are multiple sources. Meaning emphasizes what will happen in the moment after that which is depicted.

b. Tendency towards unclearness

4. Subject matter includes or shows:

Grandiose visions

Ecstasies and conversions

Martyrdom and death (religious)

Ephemeral moments and passage of time

Intense light

Powerful psychological renderings

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