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Western Art Timeline Part 2 - Baroque Art to the Pre-Raphaelites

Our Western Art Timeline from 1600-1880 gives an outline of the most important artists, movements and styles of painting from Baroque to the Pre-Raphaelites.

Baroque Art (c.1600-1700)

CARAVAGGIO (1571-1610) 'David with the Head of Goliath', 1610 (oil on canvas)

CARAVAGGIO (1571-1610)
'David with the Head of Goliath', 1610 (oil on canvas)

Baroque was a reaction against the artificial stylization of Mannerism. It spread throughout Europe during the 17th century. Among the great Baroque masters were the Italian painter Caravaggio and sculptor Bernini, the Flemish artist Rubens, Velazquez from Spain, and Rembrandt, the greatest of all Dutch painters.

Baroque art is identified by realistic subjects that depict spectacular action and generate powerful emotions. Religious, mystical and historical subjects, which were often propaganda for the Church or State, were brought to life with characters in contemporary clothing, by naturalistic painting of outstanding virtuosity, dramatic lighting (chiaroscuro) and bold asymmetric and diagonal compositions.

Rococo Art (c.1700-1775)

JEAN HONORÉ FRAGONARD (1732-1806 ) 'The Progress of Love - The Meeting', 1773

JEAN HONORÉ FRAGONARD (1732-1806)
'The Progress of Love - The Meeting', 1773 (oil on canvas)

Rococo is a term that derives from the French word ‘rocaille’ which means rock-work, referring to a style of interior decoration that swirls with arrangements of curves and scrolls. The style was essentially French but spread throughout Europe.

As Mannerism was a stylistic reaction to Renaissance art, so Rococo was a decorative response to the realism of Baroque. While some authorities consider Rococo to be a refined, elegant, and allegorical style, others judge it as pompous, indulgent and pretentious.

Notable Rococo artists were Watteau, Boucher and Fragonard in France, Tiepolo, Guardi and Canaletto in Italy, and to some extent Hogarth in England.

Baroque and Rococo Art Slide Show

Dutch Art (c.1620-1670)

JAN VERMEER (1632-1675) 'The Milkmaid', 1658-61 (oil on canvas)

JAN VERMEER (1632-1675)
'The Milkmaid', 1658-61 (oil on canvas)

Dutch Art has become famous for its still lifes, portraits, landscapes, interiors and genre painting. With the spread of Protestantism in Holland and the rejection of Catholic Baroque, Dutch artists had to focus on a more limited range of secular subjects to which there were no objections on religious grounds. Consequently, artists tended to specialize more narrowly, often in one subject. For example, Willem Kalf painted still lifes, Frans Hals portraits, Jacob van Ruisdael landscapes, and Jan Vermeer was the outstanding genre painter. The exception was Rembrandt, the greatest of the Dutch masters whose genius is evident through a range media and subjects that capture the essence of the human condition.

Dutch Art Slide Show

Neoclassicism (c.1765-1850)

JACQUES LOUIS DAVID (1748-1825) 'Napoleon Crossing the Alps', 1801 (oil on canvas)

JACQUES LOUIS DAVID (1748-1825)
'Napoleon Crossing the Alps', 1801 (oil on canvas)

Neoclassicism was a reaction against the pomposity of Rococo. This was the Age of the Enlightenment and political, social and cultural revolution were in the air. Artists needed a serious art for serious times and once again they looked back to the art of Antiquity as their model. Inspired by the archaeological discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii, Neoclassicism had a historical accuracy that earlier classical revivals lacked. Historical scenes of heroism and virtue were used as patriotic propaganda or allegories on contemporary circumstances. Jacques Louis David and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres were the outstanding virtuosos of Neoclassical painting.

Romanticism (c.1765-1850)

JOSEPH MALLORD WILLIAM TURNER (1775-1851) 'The Fighting Temeraire', 1839 (oil on canvas)

JOSEPH MALLORD WILLIAM TURNER (1775-1851)
'The Fighting Temeraire', 1839 (oil on canvas)

The High Renaissance marks the pinnacle of artistic development in Italian art of the late 14th, 15th and early 16th centuries. The word 'Renaissance' means 'rebirth' - a rebirth of the classical ideals from Ancient Rome and Greece.

The great artists of the High Renaissance were Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti from Florence, Raphael Sanzio from Umbria, and Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) and Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti) from Venice. They painted artworks of unprecedented skill and beauty and were responsible for raising the status of the artist in society from the level of artisan to an intellectual plane on a par with writers, philosophers and scientists. These great masters achieved what artists had aspired to since the Early Renaissance: a revival of the classical ideals of beauty and form; an anatomical and scientific accuracy in drawing; a sensual and psychological response to color and composition, and an acceptance and appreciation of classical content as the subject matter for art.

Neoclassicism and Romanticism Slide Show

Realism (c.1840-1880)

GUSTAVE COURBET (1819-1877) 'Apples and a Pomegranate', 1871 (oil on canvas)

GUSTAVE COURBET (1819-1877)
'Apples and a Pomegranate', 1871 (oil on canvas)

Realism was a French style of painting that focused on the everyday reality of a subject, warts and all. Realist artists such as Millet, Corot, Courbet and Manet reacted against the heightened emotions of Romanticism. They sought an objective truth that reflected the social realities of the common man in his natural environment. Realism was also inspired by a new exploration of 'visual reality' that followed the invention of photography around 1840.

The Pre-Raphaelites (c.1848-1854)

DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI (1828-1882) 'La Ghirlandata', 1873 (oil on canvas)

DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI (1828-1882)
'La Ghirlandata', 1873 (oil on canvas)

The Pre-Raphaelites were a brotherhood of young English artists who created artworks that were a blend of Realism and Symbolism. Dissatisfied with the art of their own time they rebelled against the 'Grand Manner', the artificial Mannerist tradition that stretched back to Raphael. They drew inspiration from the Early Renaissance (before Raphael), when artists explored the ideal of 'truth to nature'. The Pre-Raphaelites painted all their works from direct observation with meticulous detail and vibrant colors. They drew their subjects from the Bible, Dante, Shakespeare and contemporary poetry usually with an idealized medieval theme. The founding members of the group were John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Realism and Pre-Raphaelite Art Slide Show