The Baroque Art Characteristics, History, Types and Styles

The baroque art was established during the time of the baroque period, specifically in between the years 1590 and 1720. It matched to the disciplines of painting, sculpture, as well as architecture; as well, as its main concept, it had the goal of reflecting the tensions of the era, especially the desire of the Roman Catholic Church to reaffirm itself following the Protestant Reform, as it was announced after the defeat of the Trento’s Council (1545-1563). This new art style heavily contrasted with its predecessors, like the idealism of the Renaissance (during 1400 to 1530) and the slightly “forced” nature of the Mannerism (during 1530 to 1600).

The baroque art was especially marked by the several emperors and catholic monarchs from the entire Europe who had an important interest in the success of the Catholic Church, so the royal courts of Spain and France commanded a great number of architectonic designs, painting and sculptures during the general Catholic campaign.

the baroque art characteristics

Baroque instruments Types of baroque art

In comparison to this, the baroque art in the protestant areas, such as Holland, had a much less religious content and, in exchange, was essentially designed for attracting the aspiring merchants and the overall medium-class.

Characteristics of the baroque art

The period of the baroque art corresponds itself to 4 main characteristics that are the Tenebrism, Realism, Lines and Hour.


In the baroque art, the Tenebrism is the name given to the contrasting light and darkness. It’s common in the baroque pieces to see a source of light and shadows, which was a practice used to give dramatism to the paintings, as they both have an impact in the emotions of the viewer and the intensity of the work.

Realism and Naturalism

The Realism is an important aspect of the baroque. Rubens, the painter, hugged reality in his art, especially in his painting “Saint George and the dragon”. In the work, Saint George is a muscly man that wore an armor that looked exactly as it was made in real life during that era. His horse, as well, is designed as a healthy and powerful animal, as well and brave and strong.

The naturalism was also seen in the baroque art through the use of unique, common details from the day-to-day life. Caravaggio applied this technique in his work by showing local places, like taverns; and local people, like farmers. He puts the viewer into the painting smearing things as part of the first plane and the central space.

The facial expressions are especially highlighted as a form of naturalism, for point out the moods and emotions of the subjects in the paintings. As well, the artist were not unfamiliar with the practice of putting themselves in the painting as part of the shadows.

the baroque art movement

Neopolitan Baroque Painting of Birth of Christ The baroque art techniques


It is of popular knowledge that the lines help to transmit movement and they were frequently used in baroque pieces. Whether they’re asymmetric, vertical or horizontal, this technique can trick the human eye rather easily and give space to the painting, which is exactly for what they were used during the baroque.

Throughout the baroque period, it was usual to see paintings that featured wings. For creating the illusion of the reduction of these, the artists declined the length of the lines, in order to give the impression of extension in the space and for it to contribute to the sensation of movement.

The works follow a certain S-like shape in the composition. For example, in “The Conversion of Saint Paul” by Caravaggio, the diagonal lines show the drama. The lines also pass through the diffusion of the baroque art with curvy figures ad horizontal capes.


Plenty of artists that used the baroque style knew the concept of time and used it form transmitting the force of nature and also how time was part of the process of life. The figure of an old man was included in a big amount of works for representing time itself and express that time comes for everybody. The positioning of the people in each painting gives the sensation that time advances and retreats.

Inspirations of baroque art

For accomplishing its scandalous part, the baroque art, stimulated by Catholic religion, tended to be a piece of public art itself in a big scale, like monumental murals and fresh painting in huge rooftops and vaults of palaces and churches.

the baroque style art characteristics

The Church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Paris Baroque art France

It has been previously mentioned how the baroque art was highly influenced by religion and church; the paintings are the ones to especially exemplify crucial elements of the catholic doctrine, whether it be directly in biblical pieces, or indirectly in mythological or allegoric compositions.

Along with this high and epic tactic, the desire to create movement within the works was shared by plenty (if not all) of the era’s painters, and with this in mind, it was typical for them to use gyrating spirals and rising diagonals, as well as solid and ostentatious color structures, for amazement and brightness. As well, new techniques of Tenebrism and clear-obscure were advanced for refining the atmosphere, accompanying the soft and wide brush, usually resulting in a broad filling. Despite all, the showmanship and drama of the baroque painting weren’t well-received by the later critics, like the influential John Ruskin (1819-1900) who considered it “dishonest”.

The baroque sculpture was generally of a higher size than the real, and it was marked by a similar sense of dynamic movement, along with an active use of the space.

The baroque architecture was intended for creating exhibition and impression, that for, the conventional lines of the Renaissance were replaced by fluid curves, while the domes and roofs were expanded, and the insides were carefully build in order to construct remarkable effects of light and shadow. It was an emotional style that, whenever the chance was available, detonated the theatric ability of the urban scenery as in The Square of Saint Pete (1656-67) in Rome, which conducts to the Basilica of Saint Pete. Its designer, Bernini, was one of the best baroque architects, he enclosed the square with columns for communicating to the visitants the impression that they were being hugged by the arms of the Catholic Church.

Lines of baroque art

There are at least three different lines of the Baroque, in the following way:

Religious Greatness

An overdramatic, ceremonial style; prodigal, almost exaggerated, ordered by the Catholic Counter Reformation and the courts of the absolute monarchies of Europe. This kind of baroque art is exemplified by the bold sculpture and idealistic architecture by Bernini (1598-1680), by the renewed and illusionist trompe l’oeil from the roof of Pietro da Cortana (1596-1669), with his master piece in Allegory of Divine Providence (1633-39); and by the wonderful paintings of Master Rubens (1577-1640).

Through the baroque period, the Christian art, tracked by The Vatican, was used to worship its own divine massiveness and, in the process, reinforce its political position.

Great Realism

baroque art sculpture

Virgin Mary Religious baroque art

A new style of naturalist roots or metaphorical arrangement. This new focus was defended by Michelangelo Caravaggio and his works (1571-1610), Francisco Ribalta (1565-1628), Velázquez (1599-1660) y Annibale Caracci (1560-1609).

The self-assurance and physical presence of Caravaggio’s figures, the accurate center of the religious painting adopted by Velázquez, the new form of movement and liveliness started by Annibale Caracci, and the realistic form of the rural painting of the biblical genre, completed with animals, developed by Castiglione (1609-64) – this were all elements that formed part of the new and dynamic style known as baroque.

The art of the easel

Unlike the public religious works and most part of the main artists from the baroque and their paintings in in catholic countries, the baroque art in the Protestant Holland (most commonly referred to as “The Dutch Golden Century”) was demonstrated by a new kind of art of the easel: a cheerful form of genre painting, directed to the prospered chief of the royal family. This new Dutch school of realistic painting also led to a emphasized realism in the drawing of the portrait and the painting of sceneries, frames of flowers, animals and, in particular, new shapes of taproom’s painting. Including the inspirational protestant genre known as “Pinturas Vanitas” (1620-1650).

Different cities and areas had their own “schools” or methods, like Amsterdam, Utrecht, Delft, Leiden, Haarlem and Dordrecht. (See: Realistic Dutch artists)

Also, for further complicate things, Rome, the main center of the movement, guarded as well a “classic” style, like it is shown in the paintings of the historian artist Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665) and the Arcadian landscaper Claude Lorrain (1600-82).

As you can see, even though most part of the baroque art within the architecture, painting and sculpture produced during the 17th century is known as baroque, it is by no means a massive style.

History of the baroque art

After the Trento’s Council voicing about how the baroque art could support the religion, along with the solidification of the trust upon the Roman Catholic Church, it became evident that it was necessary a new style of biblical art for backing up the catholic Counter Reformation and completely convey to the European congregation the miracles and sufferings of the Saints.

This new technique required to be more animated, expressive and lightened with a bigger realism. Powerfully motivated by the Jesuits’ points of view, the architecture, the painting and the sculpture had to work together for creating a unified effect; this is why he baroque is occasionally called “The Jesuit Style”. The original push came from the arrival of Annibale Carracci and Carravaggio (1571-1610) to Rome during the decade of the 1590. Their attendance sparkled up a new interest in the realism, as well as in the old forms, both alleged and progressed by Alessandro Algardi (in sculpture) and Bernini (in sculpture and architecture). Peter Paul Rubens, who stayed in Rome until 1608, was the only great catholic painter in the baroque language.

what is baroque art

St Rasso or Ratho The baroque art history

Although Rembrandt and other Dutch artists were influenced by both, Carravaggio and Bernini, France had their own, more irreverent relationship with the baroque. The key figure in the French baroque art of the 17th century was Charles Le Brun (1619-90), who served as a much superior inspiration than his own métier. For example, look at the Gobelin’s hangings factory, who was also its director. Spain and Portugal adopted it with greater enthusiasm, just like the catholic areas of Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Spanish Netherlands.

The culmination of the movement was the High baroque (1625-75), while the awe over the prominence of the movement was marked by the phenomenal quadrature known as Apotheosis of Saint Ignacio (1688-94, S. Ignazio, Roma), by the illusionist roof painter Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709), certainly one of the best baroque painters of the 17th century.

Naples, the second biggest city of Europe after Paris, was a significant center of the baroque art of Counter Reformation in 1600. The Neapolitan school was industrialized by Caravaggio, Ribera, Artemisa Gentileschi, Mattia Preti (1613-99), Luca Giordano (1634-1705), Francesco Solimena (1657-1747) and others.

the baroque style art characteristics

Angel baroque art sculpture

It took longer for the baroque style to reach to Russia. In fact, it wasn’t up until the apparition of the petrino art in Saint Petersburg, when designers like Rastrelli, Gottfried Schadel, Domenico Trezzini, Andreas Schulter, Michetti, Matarnovi and Leblond started to plan the Russian baroque style.

Up to the end of the 17th century, the great baroque style was in weakening, just like its core promoter, Italy. The next European potency was France, where it was starting to come to live an innovative and conflicting method of decorative style. This rehabilitated style soon encircled the entire architecture, all forms of inside decoration, furniture, painting, sculpture and porcelain design. It was known as Rococo.

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Without a doubt, the baroque art is a unique style that showed a “before and after” within the art world. Its innovations within the past centuries shows a quick and bold evolving, as well as the display of ideas by several great, illustrated and creative minds; all of them working at their maximum for achieving the ultimate, reachable level of perfection for this works.

All disciplines within the baroque art deserve to be highlighted by their excellence, filling the world with such a bright and delicate but courageous beauty, just as everything that has come since the baroque period. There are no doubts about why it is so admired nowadays and the works of great personalities are still preserved and recognized.