The Baroque Period in art and architecture represented definitive cultural works developed in Europe, England, and the Americas during the 17th and early 18th cent.
A major characteristic of Baroque paintings style is an emphasis on unity among the arts. Baroque artists exercised brilliant technical skill and brought significant harmony to paintings, sculpture, and architecture. To emphasize spatial significance, artists experimented with proportions and were frequently able to create astounding visual effects. During this time period, French and English Art appeared very subdued compared to the more frenetic works of central and southern Europe and New World artists. Both painting and sculpture used skilled naturalistic illusionism, typically heightened by lighting effects, creating high energy and theatrical energy in the movement of forms. Architecture during this period took on fluidity of form and became very sculptural.
Baroque paintings and sculpture built and expanded on the naturalistic tradition of the Renaissance. Religious paintings, allegories, historical subjects, and portraits were still considered the most important subjects. Landscapes, still life, and scenes of everyday living were painted by artists Jan Vermeer, Claude Lorrain, Willem Kalf, and Jacob Van Ruisdael. Caravaggio and those who followed him were known for their natural treatment of people in ordinary settings as was Vermeer. The illusion filled effects of deep space were very popular. Among those favoring this group of techniques were painters Guercino and Andrea Pozzo. Another way in which interior space played a role was in the presentation of long rows of rooms, frequently presenting extended views through windows, doors, and mirrors as in the work of Vermeer and Diego Velazquez.
Color was a device used for the manipulation of emotion. Nicholas Poussin favored clear, calm tones. Pietro da Cortona favored warm and shimmering colors. Peter Paul Rubens preferred vivid hues. A heightened sense of drama was achieved through strong contrasts between light and dark. This was a technique representative of the works of Caravaggio. Carracci, Rembrandt, and Poussin had works evoking restrained emotion in following the period's academic principles of dignity and decorum. Others, including Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Rubens depicted individual psychology, religious ecstasy, and physical sensuality in their oil paintings.
An iconic figure of Baroque paintings is Diego Velasquez. He is also Spain's greatest painter. Skilled in technique and individual style his influence on European art is highly significant.
One of his most valuable teachers was Nature. Eventually, he became the court painter and lived in Madrid. His paintings include mythological and religious subjects, landscapes, and scenes from everyday life. Many are portraits of notable court figures.
Velasquez was a master of realism and an exceptional gesture artist capable of capturing the essential character of any living being with a few quick strokes. He was called the painter's painter because of his extraordinary skill in merging color, space, light, the rhythm of line, and mass so that they all have equal value. Artists who painted Baroque Paintings influenced by Velasquez are Francisco de Goya, Bartolome Murillo, Camille Corot, Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, and James McNeill Whistler.
Velasquez has led numerous painters to make original contributions to mankind's body of significant art. A portrait of the Infanta Maria Theresa, The Surrender of Breda, The Waterseller at Seville, Pope Innocent X, Christ On The Cross, and Las Meninas is Velasquez's best-known works. Of all the Baroque paintings, these are some of the most famous.