The Baroque is a style of art that flourished in Europe from the early 17th century until the 1740s. The term Baroque comes directly from French (“a pearl of irregular shape”), which in turn comes from Portuguese barroco (“irregular pearl”); and is related to Spanish barrueco and Italian barocco. The Baroque was the dominant movement in various art forms at the time including painting, sculpture, architecture, dance and music, among others. In painting, the Baroque style is characterized by great drama; rich color; intense light; and dark shadows. In sculpture, it is characterized by dynamism (a sense of motion), which is augmented by extravagant effects like strong curves and rich decoration. Caravaggio is regarded as the father of Baroque painting while Bernini was the dominating figure in sculpture during the Baroque period. Here are the 10 most famous Baroque artists and their best known masterpieces.

 

#10 Francisco de Zurbarán

Francisco Zurbaran
Francisco Zurbaran

Lifespan: 1598 – August 27, 1664

Nationality: Spanish

Chiaroscuro is an artistic technique first developed during the Renaissance in Italy. It is marked by the use of strong tonal contrasts between light and dark to model three-dimensional forms, often to dramatic effect. Chiaroscuro was heavily used by painters of the Baroque period including Francisco Zurbaran, who is known for the forceful, realistic use of chiaroscuro in his art. Moreover, Zurbaran was devoted to an artistic expression of religion and faith; and most of his best known works are religious paintings capable of evoking intense feelings of devotion. He also created several still life paintings including the renowned work Still-life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose. Along with El Greco and Diego Velázquez, Zurbaran is one of the most celebrated artists of the Spanish Golden Age.

Masterpiece: Saint Serapion (1628)

Saint Serapion (1628)
Saint Serapion (1628) – Francisco Zurbaran

Other Famous Works:-

The Crucifixion (1627)

Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose (1633)


#9 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Lifespan: December, 1617 – April 3, 1682

Nationality: Spanish

Before the appreciation of the art of Velazquez, Zurbaran and El Greco in the 19th century; Murillo was the most famous Spanish painter. He was not only the most celebrated painter in Spain but also one of the most famous artists in all of Europe. He had many pupils and innumerable followers; and his paintings were the most prized Spanish artworks. Esteban Murillo was most known for his religious paintings but he also created a number of lively realist paintings of flower girls, street urchins etc. which give a captivating account of everyday life in his times. His style was marked by sweetness and sentimentality in contrast to the darker art of his contemporaries.

Masterpiece: The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables (1678)

Immaculate Conception of Soult (1678)
Immaculate Conception of Soult (1678) – Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Other Famous Works:-

Christ the Good Shepherd (1660)

The Young Beggar (1650)


#8 Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi

Lifespan: July 8, 1593 – c. 1656

Nationality: Italian

Artemisia lost her mother when she was only 12 and, at the age of 17, she was raped by one of her father’s colleagues, Agostino Tassi. After her rapist was prosecuted, she married a painter and relocated to Florence. There she put behind the tragedies of her early life and flourished as an artist. Artemisia Gentileschi was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno, an instructional art academy in Florence. She enjoyed the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici, the grand duke of Tuscany, among others. She also had international clientele. Artemisia specialized in depicting strong and suffering women from myths, allegories and the Bible. She was famous for convincingly depicting the female figure as well as for her skill and talent in handling color. Today, Artemisia Gentileschi is regarded as one of the most accomplished painters of the Baroque Era.

Masterpiece: Judith Slaying Holofernes (1620)

Judith Slaying Holofernes (1620)
Judith Slaying Holofernes (1620) – Artemisia Gentileschi

Other Famous Works:-

Susanna and the Elders (1611)

Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (1639)



#7 Anthony van Dyck

Anthony van Dyck
Anthony van Dyck

Lifespan: March 22, 1599 – December 9, 1641

Nationality: Flemish

Son of a wealthy Antwerp silk merchant, Anthony van Dyck began painting from an early age and, while he was in his teens, he became a pupil of Peter Paul Rubens, one of the leading artists in Europe at the time. Van Dyck had a successful career during which he was court painter for the archduchess Isabella, Habsburg Governor of Flanders; and then the main court painter of Charles I of England. Van Dyck revolutionized the genre of court portraiture with his exceptional skill and he is most renowned for his portraits of the aristocracy, most notably Charles I. Apart from court portraits, he also painted mythological and biblical subjects. Van Dyck had a lasting impact on future generations and he was dominant influence in the genre of court painting for the next 150 years in England.

Masterpiece: Charles I in Three Positions (1636)

Charles I in Three Positions (1636)
Charles I in Three Positions (1636) – Anthony van Dyck

Other Famous Works:-

Charles I at the Hunt (1635)

Self-Portrait with a Sunflower (1633)


#6 Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Lifespan: December 7, 1598 – November 28, 1680

Nationality: Italian

The Baroque was a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, art and music. Baroque sculpture attempted to capture dynamic movement of human figures, was meant to be viewed from all angles and was displayed centrally, rather than against a wall. Gian Lorenzo Bernini is credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture and he developed it to such an extent that other sculptors are of only minor importance in a discussion of that style. Bernini was the definition of childhood genius. He was “recognized as a prodigy when he was only eight years old” and he soon earned the admiration and favor of powerful patrons who hailed him as “the Michelangelo of his century”. He went on to have a long and illustrious career producing some of the best known sculptures ever created. Bernini was the leading and most renowned sculptor of his age. According to one scholar: “What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture”.

Masterpiece: Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1652)

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1652)
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1652) – Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Other Famous Sculptures:-

David (1624)

Apollo and Daphne (1625)


#5 Diego Velázquez

Diego Velazquez
Diego Velazquez

Lifespan: June 6, 1599 – August 6, 1660

Nationality: Spanish

Diego Velazquez was an important painter during his time and the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV of Spain. In fact, he is recognized as the most important Baroque painter of 17th century Spain. His popularity spread outside Spain only in the beginning of the 19th century when his artwork became a model for realist and impressionist painters. Since then Velazquez has been regarded as one of the most influential painters in European history and famous modern artists, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon, have paid tribute to him by recreating several of his celebrated works. Velazquez had a highly individualistic style which is regarded as a precursor to the modern art styles that followed. The masterpiece of Velazquez, Las Meninas, has been described to represent the “theology of painting” and “the true philosophy of the art” by notable artists.

Masterpiece: Las Meninas (1656)

Las Meninas by Velazquez
Las Meninas (1656) – Diego Velazquez

Other Famous Works:-

Portrait of Innocent X (1650)

Rokeby Venus (1650)


#4 Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens

Lifespan: June 28, 1577 – May 30, 1640

Nationality: Flemish

Peter Paul Rubens apprenticed under Adam van Noort and Otto van Veen, two of the leading painters in Antwerp. He later based his studio in the same city, which produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe. Rubens was a prolific artist who created 1403 artworks. He specialized in making altarpieces; and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. However, he also painted portraits and, in later life, several landscapes. Rubes is known for his highly charged compositions. He had a unique and immensely popular Baroque style which emphasized movement, color and sensuality. Rubens was also a classically educated humanist scholar and a diplomat. He was knighted by both Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England. Sir Peter Paul Rubens is regarded as the most influential artist of Flemish Baroque tradition.

Masterpiece: The Judgment of Paris (1639)

The Judgement of Paris - Peter Paul Rubens
The Judgement of Paris (1639) – Peter Paul Rubens

Other Famous Works:-

The Descent from the Cross (1614)

Samson and Delilah (1610)



#3 Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer

Lifespan: October 31, 1632 – December 16, 1675

Nationality: Dutch

Johannes Vermeer was relatively obscure during his time. It was perhaps because he was less prolific and created only about 45 artworks during his life of which 36 still survive. But such is there quality that they are among the most revered images in the history of art. Although he also painted religious and mythological scenes, Vermeer is most famous for his paintings of scenes of daily life in interior settings. Moreover, he is renowned for masterful use of light in his work and for creating realistic bright images that captivate the viewer. Vermeer was forgotten after his death and it was only in the 19th century that his work was rediscovered and appreciated. Since that time, Vermeer’s reputation has grown leaps and bounds. The Dutch Golden Age was a period in the history of the Netherlands in which, among other things, Dutch art was among the most acclaimed in the world. Vermeer is now acknowledged as the greatest painter of the Dutch Golden Age along with Rembrandt.

Masterpiece: Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665)

Girl with a Pearl Earring - Johannes Vermeer
Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) – Johannes Vermeer

Other Famous Works:-

The Milkmaid (1658)

View of Delft (1661)


#2 Caravaggio

Caravaggio
Caravaggio

Lifespan: September 29, 1571 – July 18, 1610

Nationality: Italian

After training as a painter in Milan, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio moved to Rome, where he spend most of his artistic career. Caravaggio is credited with the invention of Tenebrism, a technique which became popular in Baroque painting. It is characterized by predominantly dark tones and shadows with dramatically contrasting effects of light. Apart from Tenebrism, Caravaggio is known for his depiction of crucial moments and scenes; often featuring violent struggles, torture and death. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting. He is in fact considered the father of Baroque painting. Caravaggio’s style can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Bernini and Rembrandt. Moreover, such was his influence, that numerous artists in the following generation who followed him came to be known as “Caravaggisti”.

Masterpiece: The Calling of St Matthew (1600)

The Calling of St Matthew - Caravaggio
The Calling of St Matthew (1600) – Caravaggio

Other Famous Works:-

Supper at Emmaus (1601)

David with the Head of Goliath (1699)


#1 Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn
Rembrandt van Rijn

Lifespan: July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669

Nationality: Dutch

Rembrandt dominated the Dutch Golden Age and since then he remains the most famous Dutch artist. Rembrandt is known as the master of light and shadow. His paintings are of exceptional realism, which he was able to achieve through his trademark light and shadow effects. Through his prolific career, Rembrandt worked in a number of genres but he is most famous for portraits and for depictions of biblical and mythological scenes. As a portrait artist, he is renowned for capturing the moods of his subjects. Group portraiture flourished in the Netherlands at the time and Rembrandt has created some of the most famous group portraits. He is also considered one of the greatest self-portrait artist, known for not showing any mercy to himself. Rembrandt is ranked by many as the best ever portrait painter and one of the greatest artists of all time. Though Caravaggio had more of an influence on the Baroque Age, Rembrandt is undoubtedly the most famous Baroque artist.

Masterpiece: The Night Watch (1642)

The Nightwatch (1642)
The Nightwatch (1642) – Rembrandt

Other Famous Works:-

The Abduction of Europa (1632)

Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar (1659)

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