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Styles & Periods

The Baroque period was named perhaps for the Portuguese word barroom, meaning an imperfect or rough pearl. The Catholic Church was being challenged by the ideas of Martin Luther, and launched a campaign to educate the congregations. Many artists completed large-scale commissions to make work that would inspire faith. Ceilings in churches and palaces were often the surface for these devotional images, and artists painted complex, but balanced, compositions. Caravaggio is credited as the master of Baroque painting. He depicted his subjects in extreme naturalism, showing all their flaws, and bathed the figures in an extreme light that emphasized a sensuous contrast between light and shadow. In Rome, Gianlorenzo Bernini sculpted grand images with unprecedented virtuosity. Integrating sculpture, design and architecture in his works, he transformed the many buildings in Rome into environments of extreme devotion, and is sometimes crowned as the leader of the Italian Baroque. In Flanders, modern day Belgium, the painter and diplomat Peter Paul Rubens developed a Baroque canon of beauty, which was based upon his full-figured beauties. Rubens completed the transformation of integrating the art of Italy and the North that Dürer began, and developed uniquely Baroque pictures of heightened devotion and drama.

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