What Are the Characteristics of Baroque Art?

Baroque artwork displays characteristics such as grandeur and sensuality along with naturalism or realism. This type of artwork is a reflection of profound political and cultural changes that were happening across Europe in the 17th century. Baroque artwork features dramatic contrast between light and dark as well as light and shadow.

Baroque art manifested in Europe during the 17th century. Baroque painters wanted to create emotion through their artwork in dramatic ways. This type of art is associated with the cultural movement between the Catholic revival and the counter reformation. Those who wanted to reform belonged to the Protestant movement and believed in personal self-determination. Church authorities used religious artwork to display Catholic theological dogma while reformers supported decorative artwork.

Artists such as Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens and Poussin contributed to the Baroque period by using chiaroscuro lighting to dramatize scenes. Unlike the artwork of the Renaissance, Baroque artwork often showed action at the moment it happened. An example of Baroque art can be seen in Rembrandt’s “Descent from the Cross,” which portrays a dramatic religious scene emphasized by the use of light and shadow.

A common theme artists used during the Baroque period was divine figures intervening on earth. These scenes were described as miraculous and were intended to be emotionally persuasive to their viewers.