High Ren to Baroque Study guide

Unit Two Study Guide
High Renaissance in Rome ends with deaths –by 1521—of Pope Julius II, Bramante,
Leonardo, and da Vinci. In 1517, Martin Luther posts 95 Theses—which protest corrupt
practices within the Catholic Church—and effectively launches Protestant Reformation.
Rome is sacked in 1527 by vagabond mercenaries “controlled” by Charles V of
Spain…leads to decline in papal patronage and in the dominion of the papacy itself.
Michelangelo lives on and paints pessimistic Last Judgment in Sistine Chapel (1534-51)
and completes numerous sculptures for Medici Tombs. He also takes over as architect
for St. Peters…largest church in Christendom. His contemporaries in Rome –Pontormo,
Parmigianino, Bronzino--develop a style of painting known as Mannerism characterized
by elongated figures, asymmetry, lack of focus, lack of balance, unusual light sources,
twisting figures with unusual postures, clashing colors, occasional eroticism; effort was
made to create a new and sophisticated sense of elegance.
Elsewhere in Italy, sixteenth century Venetian art thrives under Giorgione, Titian,
Veronese, and Tintoretto. Exceptional interest in color and light, mists, reflections from
sea; style is typically painterly with less emphasis on sharply delineated lines. Venice is
an international city, and it abounds with goods and influences from exotic locations.
Enjoys secular patronage and sensuous themes. Giorgione paints one of first works
without a known subject-Tempest, 1510. Titian creates innovative compositions—
Pesaro Madonna 1519-26- and beautiful recumbent nudes.
Catholic Church under continuing assault from Protestantism, science, and medicine.
Threats come from Henry VIII in England, Luther in Germany, Copernicus, Vesalius,
etc. Council of Trent (1545-63) reaffirms authority of Catholic Church and it launches
Counter Reformation which acclaims the power of art to inspire religiosity and ecstatic
fervor; the council also affirms authority of Inquisition to stamp out heresy, censorship
via Index of Forbidden Books, and persecution of witches.
High Renaissance in Germany includes acquaintances and contemporaries of Luther
including Cranach and Durer. Northern artists of importance include Bosch, Grunewald,
Holbein, and Altdorfer. Durer stands our from the crowd because of his skill in both
painting and printmaking; his signed prints are distributed and sold throughout western
Europe. He is also believed to be the first artist in history to seek legal protection for his
artistic copyright.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder paints genre scenes of peasants in outdoor settings…deep and
expansive vistas with great attention to detail; Breugel honors the simple folk…a new
sort of humanism. His figures are un-idealized and, though they often reveal the foibles
and follies of mankind, they are typically presented with dignity. See Hunters in the
Snow, 1565.
The mid Sixteenth century in the Protestant north witnesses a period of iconoclasm; the
church commissions no works, and many that exist are destroyed for fear of the sin of
idol worship. Painting in this part of Europe is revived fifty years later with the Dutch
masters who paint a variety of scenes—portraits, landscapes, still-lifes—for a public
audience. The relatively wealthy citizens of the Dutch Republic purchased art for their
own homes and shops, and these works are typically small secular images or grand group
Baroque art was a product of the Catholic Counter Reformation; in highly dramatic
images, it sought to persuade the heathen and to keep the faithful enthralled. While the
subjects of baroque art start out as ones which reveal the suffering of martyrs and the
ecstatic visions of saints, over time the style is used to paint images of less reverent
material as well. Major artists begin using this style in Rome, Spain, and Flanders.
Characteristics of the style include great emotionalism, theatricality, and dramatic
lighting. As opposed to the high renaissance, compositions frequently feature great
diagonals as opposed to balanced and symmetrical forms. There is one no clear focal
point, so the subject matter may be harder to grasp and perhaps even multi-faceted,
figures may seem to spill out of the picture plane; space recedes diagonally into the
picture plane as opposed to a parallel arrangement. Color is used with exuberance, and
figures seem to have an open form (Bernini’s David) vs a closed form (Michelangelo’s
Bernini was the greatest sculptor to follow Michelangelo; he was a child prodigy whose
talents were made available to the Pope and his cardinals for religious themes—David,
1623 and Ecstasy of St. Theresa, 1645-52—as well as classical themes with thinly veiled
allusions to religious subject matter—Apollo and Daphne. He was also a skilled architect
who took over construction of St. Peter’s, completed the baldachino and the colonnade
for the piazza. The longitudinal axis of the nave—a change from Bramante’s original
centralized plan—and the papal high altar over Saint Peter’s tomb reflect in architectural
terms the formal hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
Bernini’s great architectural rival, Francesco Borromini, brilliantly characterized Baroque
features in his church San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (Rome, 1634) with an undulating
façade-alternating concave and convex bays-- that seemed to be in motion. Similar to the
twisting columns of Bernini’s baldachino or the theatricality of his St. Theresa in
Ecstacy, Borromini’s architecture stressed the illusion of movement and the play of light
and dark…hallmarks of Baroque architecture. Structures of this era and style were
further enriched by dramatic ceiling paintings which typically included trompe l’oeil
Also in Rome, the painter Caravaggio distinguished himself with dramatic images using
tenebrism. Characteristically, his works employ bold foreshortening, theatrical light and
dark, intense emotion, brilliant color and disturbing themes. Artemesia Gentileschi was
one of the first great women painters of the period; her style owes much to Caravaggio,
and her images frequently relate to women triumphing over men.
Spain was a leader in the Counter Reformation. The New World was the source of much
of Spain’s wealth and the victim of much of its evangelical fervor. El Greco combined
both mannerist and Baroque influences to paint mystical landscapes such as View of
Toledo and religious works such as The Burial of Count Orgaz , 1586, which champions
the Catholic belief that both works and faith are necessary to attain salvation. Diego
Velazquez was the greatest of the Spanish painters; his work shows influence of
Caravaggio’s light and Titian’s painterly brush stroke. Las Meninas is his greatest work;
shows the importance of both the artist and painting itself.
In France the 72 year reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715) saw baroque enthusiasm revealed
in the extravagances of secular architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture
(Versailles). Absolute monarchies and kings ruling by divine right were the order of the
day not only in France, but also Spain, HRE, and England. Louis’s egomania may have
been the most insatiable, and he sought to have nature herself bend to wishes in the form
of topiary sculptures, architectural hedges, etc. Through the French Royal Academy of
Painting and Sculpture a hierarchy of subject matter was created and artists endeavored to
adhere to strict rules which required classical training and precise drawing.
Poussin was the greatest of the French painters of his day (1594-1665) and works such as
Rape of the Sabine Women and Et in Arcadia Ego (1655) reflect the ideals of the
In Flanders Peter Paul Rubens became an international artistic celebrity painting royalty
and aristocrats throughout western Europe. He paintings were quintessentially baroque in
both their evangelical fervor—see The Raising of the Cross, 1610—and their
propagandistic bombast—see Henri IV Receiving the Portrait of Marie de Medici, 162225. His work shows the influence of Michelangelo and Caravaggio.
Apart from the Catholic world, three great painters in Holland—Hals, Rembrandt, and
Vermeer—painted scenes images without the patronage of the church. A thriving
Amsterdam led many to become prosperous and the commission and collection of
paintings was commonplace. Hals distinguished himself with portraiture and showed a
particular gift for catching fleeting expressions of a wink, a smirk, or a laugh—see Witch
of Haarlem, 1629. Rembrandt was the greatest of the three; hugely popular at one time
of life, he faced great difficulties later. His works include over 90 self portraits plus
images that show extraordinary introspection---Bathsheba, Pilate, Peter. Rembrandt’s
Prodigal Son, 1665, exemplifies much of the Protestant belief that salvation can be
achieved through faith (and repentance) alone. Quite different from the works of those
who precede him, Rembrandt paints with a heavily-laden brush, and the oil is applied to
the canvas almost as thickly as icing is to a cake.
Vermeer’s paintings evoke a quiet contemplation. Typical subjects are women in a pure
light undertaking some domestic responsibility such as letter-writing, playing a musical
instrument, or working in the kitchen. These genre scenes seem to have a second and
loftier hidden message.
Judith Leyster, the greatest of the Dutch women painters, also achieved fame in this day
for her portraits. Jan Steen’s domestic scenes were popular for their moralizing but
sarcastic tone.
Following the death of Louis XIV in 1715, much of the royal court and the aristocrats
therein left Versailles and returned to Paris where they built and decorated their homes in
a fashionable and elegant style known as Rococo. Popular subject matter of Rococo
paintings and sculpture included romantic dalliances and intrigue, lush landscapes, and
the fete galante. Antoine Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera (1717), Fragonard’s The
Swing (1766), and Boucher’s Cupid a Captive (1754) typify works of the period and
show the popular taste for a pastel palette and sensuous imagery.
Architecture of the period is characterized by the salon, the formal parlors in which the
wealthy –especially the femmes savants – competed to entertain by showcasing the most
popular musicians (Mozart 1756-1791), lecturers (Voltaire 1694-1778), and
accomplished (Diderot 1713-84) folks of the day. Works by architects such as Germain
Boffrand typify the effeminate aesthetic with its elaborate filigree, moldings, mirrors, and
curvilinear rooms. Not unlike the Mannerist period of the 16th century, the Rococo was a
style that emphasized artifice and wit; enthusiasm or sincerity was considered to be in
bad taste.
The Enlightenment ushered in a new world view based on the doctrine of empiricism, or
the idea that we can best understand the world through science and our perceptions, not
through religion or mythology. A great new age of scientists and philosophers-Newton
and Locke of Great Britain, Voltaire and Rousseau of France, Franklin and Jefferson of
America) arose and their ideas empowered the individual and ultimately ignited a
revolutionary spirit in both France and America. Joseph Wright of Derby A Philosopher
Giving a Lecture at the Orrery, 1763-65) helped celebrate in paint the spirit of
Enlightenment, and the products of the Industrial Revolution began to be evident in
works such as the first iron bridge, a work by Abraham Darby and Thomas Pritchard in
Coalbrookdale, England, 1776-79. The advent of iron was to revolutionize subsequent
architectural design.
Jean- Baptiste Greuze specialized in sentimental narratives with a moralizing emphasis
(The Village Bride, 1761, and The Son Punished, 1777-78). Greuze was especially
praised by the Enlightenment figure Denis Diderot who stridently opposed the moral
bankruptcy of the Rococo and advocated for an art which would “inspire virtue and
purify manners.”
William Hogarth in England responded to the Rococo by satirizing the very characters
and the lifestyles championed by his counterparts in Paris. Works such as Marriage a la
Mode of 1745 and The Rakes Progress of 1734 were serial works which, not unlike the
novels of his friend Henry Fielding, chronicled the exploits of his characters from scene
to scene.
Still another strand of architectural and artistic style emerged in the 18th century and
spread throughout western Europe and even to America. Neoclassicism had its roots in
the mid century excavations which began at the newly discovered cities of Herculaneum
and Pompeii—celebrated by the historian Johann Winckelmann in his 1755 Reflections
on the Imitation of Greek works in Painting and Sculpture wherein he championed
classical Greek art as the most perfect of all time. Subsequent decades showed a dramatic
revival of interest in Greek and Roman literature, fine arts, decorative arts, and
architecture. Painting and sculpture, in particular, focused on subjects and images which
espoused those virtues thought to be characteristic of ancient Greeks and
Romans…selflessness, austerity, courageousness, and patriotism. Angelica Kauffman’s
Cornelia Presenting Her Children as Her Virtues, 1785, and Jacque Louis David’s Oath
of the Horatii, 1784 perfectly exemplify these values and this style. Architectural
counterparts of the Neoclassical style include Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda at the
University of Virginia 1819-26 and Karl Langhans’ Brandenberg Gate of 1788-91 in