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Western art dates way back to 3rd millennium BC which was marked by Ancient Egypt, Ancient Aegean civilizations and Ancient Middle East. There were also different types of arts in different European countries such as carvings, huge standing stones and decorated artifacts. The Ancient Greece recorded consistency in her artistic patterns, which was espoused and renovated by the Roman Empire and spread across most of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe (Kleiner & Mamiya, 2010).

The 17th Century was marked by great artistic developments in Europe. Religion and secularism greatly contributed to artistic development in European countries. Italy was had acquired artistic dominance during the early decades of the 17th Century. Netherlands developed in the artistic field after stability was established in the region. The baroque artistic style was embraced across the European continent during the late decades of the Century (Baroque, 1999-2007). France at one point took over the artistic dominance from Italy. There are various artists in different countries who greatly contributed to artistic development through their innovative and creative works.  Artistic works largely associated with politics, religion, and economic development in different countries. Artists wrote literature and designed pictures and paintings to express the political and religious philosophies and ideologies of different groups in relation to the prevailing circumstances.  Trade relations were developed among different countries due to the rise of artistic architectural designs (Kleiner & Mamiya, 2010).

The 17th century was marked by baroque artistic style which primarily related to the Christianity tensions between the Protestantism and the Roman Catholicism. The Roman Catholic Church was agitated by the early 16th Century Protestant Reformation and in retaliation embarked on a Counter-Reformation program using artistic campaigns in order to make their doctrinal, emotional and visual expressions appealing and comprehensible to the audience. Protestant countries also adopted this artistic development later. Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, Gianlorenzo and Bernini are recognized as the founders of baroque art. Bernini wittily embraced the baroque style by combining architecture, painting and sculpture with deep religious conviction and scenographic braveness to express the spiritual eye-sight of the Catholic Counter-Reformation Church (Kleiner & Mamiya, 2010).

Christianity and secularism played a very important role in Western art. Church commissions provided an avenue for artists to display their artistic works in the form of architecture, paintings and sculptures. There were great reflections of the history of church in the history of art during baroque period (Kleiner & Mamiya, 2010).

Baroque originated from Italy then spread to Spain, Netherlands, Germany and France. It covers a broad range of artists and styles. Baroque period was marked by religious painting, allegories, historical painting, landscapes, still lifes, portraits and genre scenes. Caravaggio and his disciples majored on naturalistic designing of unidealized normal people. They designed buildings consisting of huge curves with undulating facades, varied shapes of domes and floor plans of exceptional complexity and size. Painters such as II Guercino and Andrea Pozzo were interested in the illusionistic effects of deep space. Painters such as Diego Velazquez represented long files of rooms with extended views through windows, mirrors and doors by opening interior spaces. Painters who known for still lifes manipulated color to achieve emotional effects. Nicholas Poussin produced clear calm tones (burial of Phocion, 1648); Pietro da Cartona produced shimmering colors while Peter Paul Rubens produced more vivid hues. Caravaggio and Rembrandt produced chiaroscuro effects which depicted individual psychology, physical sensuality and religious ecstasy. Poussin and Carracci achieved portraits of restrained feelings in relation to the intellectual doctrines of decorum and poise.  Georg Flegel from German designed water color pictures which mostly depicted tables that were set for meals and covered with flower, occasional animal and food (The Colombia Electronic Encyclipedia; baroque, 1999-2007).

Politically, the Flanders and Holland enjoyed the flourishing baroque arts when the region was stable. Netherlands was divided due to the religious tensions; the Catholics in the south were subjected to Spanish rule while the Protestant Dutch provinces in the north fought for independence. Several writers came up with literature in relation to religion to critique the separation of churches and religious hypocrisy across the European countries. Luther (1520 questioned the nobility of European churches whose leaders and members did not practice what they preached because of the discrimination and mistreatment of the blacks. Canons were formulated and implemented to guide and promote the catholic during the Counter Reformation Period (Prentice Hall, Inc. 1994). Many Roman artists acquired artistic skills in Italy where they were forced to paint religious objects. Architectural artists were also commissioned by bishops, the royal families and nobles to decorate their buildings. The Flemish bourgeois families were all reflected in baroque artistic styles. Artists designed pictures basing on the ordinary scenes, still-lifes of assortments of simple everyday items and portraits. Rembrandt van Rijin’s creativity was appreciated in his many works such “the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp (1632)”, “return of the Prodigal Son (1665)” and “Self-Portrait (1659-60)”.[Baroque, 1999-2007]

Elsewhere, politics and religion were expressed in writings. According to Rousseau (1762-1778), the government was by the people and for the people, and every individual enjoyed personal freedom and responsibility over his acts and that unity of purpose is an essential element in the country. Luther (1520) advocated for equality irrespective of race and colour. The French representatives of people wrote a declaration of inalienable fundamental artistic rights and freedoms of individuals and their duty to others (Stewart, 1979).

Italy lost its artistic superiority to France between 1660 and 1725 mainly because of the backing of Louis XIV. During this period, Germany and Austria made a remarkable popularity across Europe due to the implementation of many wall paintings by the Tiepolo family. The exceptionally theoretical eminence of the architecture in these states is identified in Johann Berhnard Fischer von Erlach and Neumann’s works. Balthasar Neumann designed the Church of Vierzehnheiligen in 1743. Spain which had rejected the Italian influence in favor of mannerism and chiaroscuro for the sake of illusionized drama effects saw some of its artists move to Italy to acquire the skills. Painting was highly appreciated in Spain with royal portraits depicting historical scenes and events from court and private life. Jose de Ribera embraced the tenebrism style (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia; Baroque, 1999-2007).

Baroque style spread all over from Europe to the whole world, with countries such as Portugal, England and Holland establishing trade relations with the Far East and India (Kleiner & Mamiya, 2010). The East exported domestic products and polished furniture in exchange for wood and other products. Europe saw to the wide invention of oriental decorative techniques with firm entrenchment of the “Chinese taste” roots. Holland did not embrace baroque till the 1740s. Dutch furniture designs were simpler with molded panels on the carved ornament. Dutch later employed marquetry decoration designs consisting of walnut –veneer surfaces. Polished furniture was also imported. Italy was not the first country to invent baroque furniture. However, by the mid-17th centuries, Italy was designing elegant furniture with great carves, paintings, gilds and decorations. There was a revolutionary progress in England after the restoration period. French and Dutch decorations were embraced in England with fine and lighter furniture designs. Finally, the massive baroque forms then transformed to rococo outlines that were finer and more graceful (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia).

Under the rococo art style, artists designed rooms gracefully with small sculptures, ornamental mirrors, ornate furniture and tapestry complimenting wall paintings, reliefs and architecture. French Rococo was heightened in 1730s by artists such as Germain Boffrand (Salon de la Princesse, Hotel de Soubise, 1737), Antoine Watteau (Pilgrimage to Cynthera, 1717) and Francois Boucher (Cupid a Captive, 1754).The Catholic churches in Bohemia, Germany and Austria greatly appreciated the style. During this period, future was physically and visually light. Many other innovations were felt during the early 18th century. England thrived in the decorations of furniture and other artistic objects during the rococo era. The great works of artists such as William Hogarth (Breakfast Scene, 1745), Thomas Gainsborough (Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1787) and Jose Wright of Derby (A philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery, 1763) were greatly appreciated (Kleiner & Mamiya, 2010).


(1999-2007). “Baroque (1600-1750)” [online] Available from HuntFor.com: http://www.huntfor.com/arthistory/c17th-mid19th/baroque.htm

[Accessed: 16th July, 2011]

Kleiner S. & Mamiya C. (2010) “Gardner’s Art Through the Ages:  A Concise Western History”. Cengage Learning.

Luther (1520) An open letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the reform of the Christian Estate. University of California, Riverside.

Prentice Hall, Inc. (2000, 1994) “The canons and decrees of the council of tent

Rousseau J. (1962) “The Social Contract”.

Stewart H.S. (1979). “A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution”.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. (2007) Baroque, in art and architecture.                                                                                                             University Press.


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