Baroque Oil Paintings

After the Renaissance, there followed a period of great wealth typified by courtly festivals and the vesting of royal ceremony in garments of classical mythology. In art this secular world was represented through swirling figures, bravura displays of composition, and fantastic compositions of light and dark. Originally the term barocco, like the term gothic, was used to describe bad or bizarre taste. Later, “gothic” became the word for what was barbaric, while “baroque” became the word for that which was degenerate.

Perhaps the most colorful Baroque master was the mysterious Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio (1569-1610), a naturalistic painter known for dramatic use of light. Caravaggio settled in Rome and worked in Genoa and southern Italy. He scandalized the church by painting religious subjects in everyday settings with ordinary people. Caravaggio revolutionized painting by working directly from life without preparatory drawings.

The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was also a diplomat and a scholar. He was noted for his brilliant use of color, his imagination, and his ability to create crowd of vigorous figures.

Without a doubt the greatest Dutch painter is Rembrandt (1606-1669). He is just as famous for his etchings and drawings. His poetic portraits with unusual lighting made ordinary people look mysterious and exotic.

Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), everyone’s favorite painter, showed the everyday life of the prosperous Dutch bourgeoisie through his subtle handling of light effects.