Baroque / Rococo

From the Baroque and Rococo epochs emerged some of the most magnificent works of art in art history. While Baroque was still filled with pathos and drama, both in terms of content and style of representation, Rococo embraced lighter themes and a brighter colour palette.

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Baroque / Rococo

Baroque and Rococo: Europe Marked by Magnificent Art

The epochs of Baroque and Rococo followed the Renaissance in Europe. Baroque developed in Italy at the end of the 16th century, and it spread throughout almost all of Europe in the 17th century. This style became particularly popular in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. The Baroque influenced all the fine arts. In architecture, painting and sculpture, colourful and opulent designs prevailed. Baroque art impressed with its naturalistic attention to detail, playful embellishments, splendid ornaments, and sometimes very valuable materials. Pronounced pathos and a certain theatricality were other typical features of Baroque. When designing churches or castles, everything was often brought into harmony with the Baroque style – from architecture to mural paintings to interior decoration. Baroque was replaced by Rococo. This style still followed naturalism in the way it was depicted, yet Rococo pictures were much lighter, friendlier, and less pathetic in their basic mood. Both epochs produced important painters in art history, for example, Jan Brueghel, Michelangelo da Caravaggio, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Jan Vermeer.

Characteristics of Baroque Painting

Baroque painting brought changes in terms of pictorial themes and artistic design. Baroque opulence, which was almost proverbial, also found expression in painting. The artists of the Baroque epoch were fundamentally committed to a naturalistic style of representation. Nevertheless, they sometimes depicted proportions and gestures somewhat exaggeratedly. They also tried to create the impression of three-dimensionality through perspective, light and shadow. With strong contrasts, a very broad colour palette and a dynamic composition, the Baroque painters supported the imposing character of their paintings. The subjects of painting shifted during this epoch as well. Baroque pictures now increasingly showed secular motifs in addition to sacred ones. Typical Baroque motifs were, for example, scenes from people's everyday lives, expressive portraits, or atmospheric landscapes. Fantastic and mythological themes were also taken up in theatrical and dramatic scenes.

The New Lightness in the Rococo

From the beginning of the 18th century, Rococo developed out of the Baroque. The changes in painting mainly affected the pictorial motifs. Rococo paintings no longer displayed the great pathos and theatricality that were still characteristic of Baroque pictures. Instead, the basic mood in the Rococo pictures was lighter and less dramatic. Everything appeared more playful and light-hearted. The landscape paintings showed unclouded idyllic impressions. The social scenes became more cheerful, and sensual nudes became more popular. In addition, the Rococo artists ventured into the first caricatures with satirical overtones. The new orientation in terms of content was reflected in the style of design. The Rococo artists increasingly used pastel colours in soft and delicate tones. Overall, the light and transparent colours brightened the overall impression of the picture.