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Unformatted text preview: 003_Baroque.doc READINGS: BAROQUE Background: Baroque: A term used in the literature of the arts with both historical and critical meanings and as both an adjective and a noun. The word has a long, complex and controversial history (it possibly derived from a Portuguese word for a misshapen pearl, and until the late 19th century it was used mainly as a synonym for `absurd' or `grotesque'), but in English it is now current with three principal meanings. Primarily, it designates the dominant style of European art between Mannerism and Rococo. This style originated in Rome and is associated with the Catholic Counter-Reformation, its salient characteristics--overt rhetoric and dynamic movement--being well suited to expressing the self- confidence and proselytizing spirit of the reinvigorated Catholic Church. It is by no means exclusively associated with religious art, however, and aspects of the Baroque can be seen even in works that have nothing to do with emotional display--for example in the dynamic lines of certain Dutch still-life paintings. Secondly, it is used as a general label for the period when this style flourished, broadly speaking, the 17th century and in certain areas much of the 18th century. Hence thus phrases as `the age of Baroque', `Baroque politics', `Baroque science', and so on. Thirdly, the term `Baroque' (often written without the initial capital) is applied to art of any time or place that shows the qualities of vigorous movement and emotional intensity associated with Baroque art in its primary meaning. Much Hellenistic sculpture could therefore be described as `baroque'. The older meaning of the word, as a synonym for `capricious', `overwrought' or `florid', still has some currency, but not in serious criticism. Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci are the two great figures who stand at the head of the Baroque tradition, bringing a new solidity and weightiness to Italian painting, which in the late 16th century has generally been artificial and often convoluted in style. In doing so they looked back to some extent to the dignified and harmonious art of the High Renaissance , but Annibale's work has an exuberance that is completely his own, and Caravaggio created figures with an unprecedented sense of sheer physical presence. From the Mannerist style the Baroque inherited movement and fervent emotion, and from the Renaissance style solidity and grandeur, fusing the two influences into a new and dynamic whole. The supreme genius of Baroque art was Gianlorenzo Bernini, an artist of boundless energy and the utmost virtuosity, whose work--imbued with total spiritual conviction-- dominates the period sometimes called the `High Baroque' (c. 1625-75). Slightly later, Andrea Pozzo marks the culmination in Italy of the Baroque tendency towards overwhelmingly grandiose display....
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