viernes, 29 de febrero de 2008


General characteristics.

During the second half of the 19th century important changes took place in the world of Art. Romanticism had opened the doors towards a free painting, open to new subject. The social changes derived from the Industrial Revolution, at once with the political revolutions, powerfully influenced on the artist, who questioned their paper in this world of transformations. The fight between academicism and rupture marked the whole century, specially the use of colour, texture and light.

Realist painting did not invent anything in formal aspects. Its significance is on the subjects chosen and in the way in which those are treated. Politically it is the century of the bourgeois revolutions. The rich bourgeoisie who controlled the politic did the same with the artistic taste through the salons, in which the artists should exhibit their work in order to be known.

Realism ask for the zenith of reality, the importance of daily subjects treated in an objective way, without idealization, in front of the colossal subjects of the past –religion, mythology, allegory, history -. In this sense the Romanticism had paved the way at insisting on the landscape, without myths, and in the popular. The amazing about the realist relies on the subjects, the way of confronting the reality, because the technique is the traditional. They did not idealise the images and people appear in their normal activities.

Realist painters

He considered that the function of the painting was to reproduce the reality as it is, free of any philosophical, moral, political or religious prejudice. Some of his works are A Burial at Ornans and The Painter’s Workshop.

He realised engravings and lithography and caricatures that criticize the hypocrisy of Louis Phillip’s monarchy. In oil painting he used an energetic brushstroke that gives the impression of draft. His subjects reflected the compromise and solidarity with humble classes as the Third Class Wagon or The Launderette.

He was the first painter in whose workers are the main protagonists of the work, but always resigned and patient, as in Angelus and Scatterer.

Landscape painting
The most important artists are Corot and the members of the Barbizon School. They tend to copy on the canvas the reality of French landscape. Corot experienced nature as it is, no as he can imagine it. He capsized the instant, the fleeing light, the changing atmosphere. Some of his works are Chartre Cathedral and Mantes Bridge.

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
Itwas a group of English painters, poets and critics, founded in 1848 by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rosseti and Willian Holman Hunt. The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". They wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.


This style was born during the crisis of the Ancient Regime that provoked a loss of faith in Reason. As a reaction, a new sensibility came up. It was characterised by over valuating feelings, passion, intuition, imagination and individual. Romanticism is a way of feeling.

Characteristics of romantic painting:
It refuses the Neo-Classical conventions and its rigid rules. It supposed a moment of technical and aesthetic innovation of great consequences for the future:
-It uses different techniques: oil painting, watercolours, engraving and lithography.
-Texture is valued per se and rough surfaces combine with more subtle shapes. Brushstrokes are free, alive and full of expression.
-Line disappears in front of colour. The suggestive potentiality of colour is recovered, freeing from too defined limits.
-Light is very important and its gradations give to the work and effective and theatre effect.
-Compositions tend to be dynamic, full of curve lines and dramatic gestures, even when some artists prefer quieter geometrical schemes.

-Subjects are varied, ranging from the exotic of the memory of a glorious pass –including from Greece to the Middle Ages –to history depictions. Gothic is the most important style, and its architecture, legends and historical moments are frequently depicted.
The exotic is evident in the wide geography that includes the North of Africa and the wild new America. East is discovered, it offers the light and colour at once with new subjects. Fantasy and, above all, drama with an obsessive taste for death, night and remains, combined with monsters and non-normal creatures.
Other discovery of the Romanticism is Nature and landscape. Fantastic, imaginative, of studio, remembered landscapes are depicted. Atmospheric effects such as fog are highly valued.
The cult to individualism is reivindicated. Artists prefer their freedom to the collectivist. This is why just a few artists, as Delacroix, are compromised with their time.
This individuality results in a new relation client-artist. They are equal, they exchange items. The artist is not the craftsman any longer. Sometimes artists create teams but without renouncing to their own individuality.

French Romanticism
Gericault is an artist who acted as a bridge between the Neo-Classical formation and a romantic approach to the work. In his short life he produced quite varied works of a wide range of subjects.

Delacroix is famous for his colour and sensuality. The North African painting influenced him. His work is of high compromise with History, and he represented moments of the revolutions of his times.

British Romanticism
Britain contributed to the painting of Romantic landscape with Constable and Turner.
Constable’s landscapes are authentic and realistic. They are full of colour stains and he is worried about capsizing the effects of light and atmospheric changes through a quick and precise technique.

Turner expressed his worries about colour and light, which he used in a revolutionary way by depicting the ways of expansion of this through the atmosphere: midst, steam, and smoke.

German Romanticism
The most important artist is Caspar David Friedrich. He depicted landscapes to which he gave a mystic, religious appearance. People are only an insignificant element in front of the greatness of landscape.

jueves, 28 de febrero de 2008

Neo-Classical Painting

Out of all the arts during the Neo-Classical period, painting was the one in which it was more difficult to reach to an aesthetic of the style. One of the reasons for that is the lack of antique models, because just a few of them appeared in the excavations. Vase decoration and low-relieves were almost the only references at the artists’ hand.

The characteristics of the movement are:
-Renounce to the colourist effects and the composition of the Baroque for realising a painting based on symmetry and reason
-The perfection of the shapes of ancient sculpture were combined with the values of Rafael’s painting.
-The result is a cold work, without deepness, consciously distant, that remains the ancient relieves.
-Painting was eclectic, eliminating any superfluous detail to underline the importance of the subject.
-It was aimed at regenerate society by showing the citizens’ virtues that were explained and depicted through subjects based on classical literature.

Among the most important authors there are Jacques Louis David and Ingres.

David depicted the Neo-Classical aesthetic in works such as The Oath of the Horatii, or Emperor Napoleon Crowning Josephine. He created a precise space in which the main characters are located on the foreground. The drowning is dominant. There is a lack of ornamentation. The light is cold and archaeological details complete what defines the Neo-Classical taste. The subjects of the paintings refer to heroic gests from which it is possible to extract a moral conclusion, even when they did not need to be necessarily ancient.

All in all, Neo-Classical style was inspired in the mythology, and sometimes it even copied it, what explains the abundance of historical and mythological subjects. There is a proliferation of naked at the Greek style and the pose is grandiloquent and cold, largely though and influenced by the Academy. It is an art full of rules, where drowning is important while colour is considered as of secondary importance. Normally it escape from the movement and, when this appears, it looks to be frozen or be stable and predictable.

martes, 26 de febrero de 2008

Neo-Classical Sculpture

There were two authors who dominated the Neo-Classical sculpture: the Italian Antonio Canova and the Danish Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Canova dominated with his artistic personality the European art of his time. He renewed the classical art in Italy. He was formed in Venice and developed his mastery in Rome. Nobody as him was able of working the marble. He was the sculptor of enormous tombs, such as that of Napoleon, following the Antique tradition. He also was the artist depicting heroic Roman gods and light nymphs. One of his most famous works is that of Cupid and Psyche, group in which love awakes a sleeping Psyche who was under the effect of a magic perfume. This work is an anthem to love at the same time that a reminder of Psyche legend, that refers to the immortal soul of the platonic myth. Without scarifying the rules of the Academy, Canova built a pyramid of mixed bodies, animated by a play of members that move with the light. The transparency of white marble adds poetry to a largely meditated group.

Thorvaldsen was the Nordic sculptor closest to Canova. After his formation at Copenhagen he moved to Rome. He stressed the severe component of a kind of primitive sculpture, which is full of a neo-Greek solemnity facing the Hellenistic interpretation made by Canova. The models of the 5th century come to life again in works such as Jason, Ganimede or the Alexandre’s Freeze. His images are frequently naked, showing internal peace and with a confident gesture.

Neo-classical Architecture

The neo-classicism was born thanks to a series of circumstances. It is the moment of rediscovery of the Classical Antiquity. In addition to this, the state created the academies to convert the classicism into rule. Last, but not least, the Baroque forms were exhausted.

The Neo-classical architecture is going to recover the styles of the Antiquity. Its moment of maximum splendour reached at the beginning of the 19th century and the art is becoming full of more and more superficial forms.

Neo-classical architecture is characterised by:
· Size can be colossal, with a special taste for pomposity and decorated with rich materials.
· The evolution covers all the Ancient styles, beginning with Greek, Rome, Paleo-christianism and Renaissance.
· The classical trends are present in architects who prefer the measured form to the felt one and use a language of stereo-metrical basic forms, with cubes, spheres, cylinders and pyramids. All the volumes are massive.
· The most used order is the Doric, with fluted shaft; the column recovers it old importance and the pediments appear everywhere.
· From Rome they take the conception of space, with special interest in domes. The interior of the buildings tends to have a very ordered plan while in the exterior big volumes are dominant.
· They prefer to copy than to innovate and the buildings must give the sensation of order and authority that the monarchy aimed at transmitting.
· The new thing is the adaptation of the Greek temple to the Christian religion.

Famous architects are Soufflot in France and Wren in England.

During the second half of the 18th century there is a special effort to depurate and simplify the architectonical shapes. This job was directed by the academies, being the most important that of San Fernando.
The most important authors are:
· Ventura Rodriguez: he worked with a marked eclecticism.
· Sabatini: classicist forms consolidated with him.
· Juan de Villanueva: He is the only Spanish architect related to the architecture of the reason. Among other works he realised the Prado Museum, in which he combined the use of stone and brick, concealing the classical monumentality, the modernity of his time and the functionality of his work. His style continued during the first half of the 19th century.

Spanish Baroque Painting

The seventeenth century is in all respects the golden age of Spanish painting. Italian influence was largely rejected in favor of Mannerist formulas and a severe and noble style which used chiaroscuro not for the sake of a theatrical aestheticism, but to create a more urgent sense of drama. Though undoubtedly Baroque, this was a profoundly realistic art, preferring a broad visual synthesis, with a predominance of pictorial over tactile values, to the analytical approach of the sixteenth-century primitivists. Interest in the faithful reproduction of materials encouraged virtuosity. Artists grew more fastidious in their choice of colors and more intimately concerned with tonal values. Light served not only to lend brightness to external forms but acquired a transcendental function. Spatial values became more subtle and more numerous; tonal gradation gained in importance and the conventional mode of observation gradually gave way to one so penetrating that no other age or style has been able to equal it in truthfulness. It was, in fact, the great Spanish masters who guided European painting along the paths of naturalistic realism.

The new art remained faithful to the themes of the preceding century: pictures of religious subjects continued to predominate, but the patronage extended by the Hapsburgs to the more famous artists resulted in the execution of numerous royal portraits, as well as paintings of historical events and scenes from private and court life. In the best work of this period a superb elegance of gesture and a psychological profundity are combined with a splendid harmony of tones and colors. It is a style that strikes a perfect balance between the graphic and the pictorial, between the representation of detail and a suggestion of the imperfections of human vision. The principal schools of this period were those of Seville and Madrid, the latter enjoying the patronage of the court. Initially, there were other important schools at Valencia, which maintained contact with Italy, and at Toledo, a training center for painters who later worked elsewhere.

In the transition between the 16th and 17th centuries there was a spate of tenebrism that produced some of the most characteristic works of the golden age of Spanish painting. (Tenebrism is a term describing predominantly dark tonality in a painting. It derives from the Italian 'tenebroso', meaning obscure, and is applied mainly to the 17th century followers of Caravaggio in Italy and elsewhere.)

The first painter to abandon Mannerism for the new realistic style was Francisco Ribalta (1555-1628), a Catalan who, after receiving his early training in Toledo, spent the years of his maturity in Valencia. It is not known whether Ribalta was acquainted with the work of Caravaggio or whether he arrived independently at results parallel to those achieved by the Italian Tenebrists. At all events, his style is remarkable for its virile naturalism. The brushwork is increasingly bold and free, so different from the polished smoothness of the previous age. Ribalta sought expressiveness as well as beauty and accentuated the sculptural modeling of his forms by contrasting light and shade.

It is with José de Ribera, however, that Tenebrism really triumphs. Ribera (1591-1652) was trained in Valencia, but in about 1616 he moved to Italy, settling in Naples. A clever draftsman and a master of composition, his numerous paintings are more varied than the legends concerning him might lead one to suppose. In his better work the dominant colors, browns and reds, contrast with cruel lighting, which sometimes appears to do violence to the forms.

The culmination of Spanish seventeenth-century painting, and one of the climaxes of world art in general, is reached in the work of Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), an artist whose mastery of space and light was admirably served by an impeccable technique. Born in Seville, he received his first lessons from the daring Francisco de Herrera the Elder, but soon became apprenticed to Pacheco, with whom he worked for five years, eventually marrying his daughter. In his writings Pacheco recalls how Velázquez was always extremely exacting in his technique and eager to work directly from life, preferring figure studies and genre scenes. Even the earliest works of the master are characterized by relatively dense impasto, objectivity of vision, restraint in the use of color, mainly ochers and browns, and simplicity and naturalness of conception.

The art of Velázquez developed irresistibly in the direction of ever greater synthesis. He painted the reflection of light in forms and colors rather than the forms and colors themselves; his drawing, such is its perfection, appears to illuminate his figures and details from within. This precision of outline, this subtle blending of tones and colors, this intervention of atmosphere between the eye and its object do as much to define the style of the artist as his simple and profound respect for everything in nature. A free and comprehensive vision of all the elements of reality, men, things, landscape, and, not least, the spirit, blazes forth in one of the masterpieces of his middle period.

The painter's interest in portraying light was not the result of a preoccupation with technique, an attitude foreign to the aesthetics and even the optics of the seventeenth century, but developed out of a profound, inner religiosity, which had always been part of the Spanish tradition and was now to find new and vigorous expression.

School of Seville
Born in 1598 in Estremadura, Francisco de Zurbarán received his training in Seville with the painter Diaz de Villanueva. In spite of his wholehearted adherence to the Andalusian school, he remained Estremaduran by temperament, superimposing a natural asceticism and a certain rustic simplicity on southern grace and elegance. Although completely faithful to his own emotions, in his naturalism and intense chiaroscuro Zurbarán clung to a certain archaism that made him the most restrained and purest of the artists of the Spanish Baroque. Shortly afterward he signed a contract to paint series of compositions for several of the monastic orders of Seville who were his most important patrons. Another important series was painted for the Jeronymites of the monastery of Guadalupe (1638-1639). Here the mood varies from a vein of realism to visions of miracles and scenes of contemplation in which the mysticism of the great Estremaduran artist has mingled with his colors. Zurbarán was also a master of simple themes, solitary figures, static and somewhat tense, saints with their eyes raised to heaven, and genre paintings in which everyday objects are clothed in mystery, as in the still life of 1633.

In Spanish painting, and within the Andalusian school to which he also belonged, Murillo represents the height of elegance and delicacy, and, it must be added, the greatest surrender to popular sentiment. His art was always at the service of his theme, and the theme, in turn, was relived with fervor. In the fervor, however, profundity was often ignored in favor of more brilliant, but aesthetically less satisfying qualities. Murillo was as sensitive to feminine beauty and the beauty of children as to the subtleties of color and tonal gradation made possible by the advanced technique of the Baroque. Lyrical rather than dramatic, Murillo was by no means unaware of the prevalence of social unrest, reflected in literature in the picaresque novel, and his whole approach to religious painting was based on a realistic point of view.

miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2008

Spanish Baroque Sculpture.

While in Italy and France the big baroque sculpture is developed following Bernini, using marble and bronze, with a wide range of subjects from mythology and allegory, in Spain the most common is the sculpture in polychrome wood, exclusively religious, that is, completely, to the service of the counter-Reform piteous sensibility. The images of Christ, the Virgin and Saints, especially Spanish, are dominant as subjects. In addition to this, the artists were able of depict feelings in the images: pain, anguish, death, and ecstasy.

Sculptors tend to approach reality to the religious fact depicted to provoke the emotion of the person who assists to the Easter parades. In them the saint appear as alive characters, near to their daily routine. This influence of the religious multiplies the demand for religious images. The popular piety of the comrades originates the Parade Paso (from the Latin passus=sufferance). The Easter parades became the maximum expression of popular faith. The altarpieces are decorated with freestanding images that can be used for the parades.

The pessimism and the attitude of a society in crisis limit the development of funerary sculpture.

The desire of depicting reality multiplies the effects. Firstly, images are polychrome, putting apart the stuffed or use of gold, in order to create more realistic images with plain colours in the clothes, and even wearing them with real clothes, in the case of the “images to dress”, that have only carved the head, hands and feet. This interest reach to use natural hair, nails, teeth or even eyes and glass eyes and tears, animal skin to depict open injuries. It is the peak of the hyper realistic baroque theatrical effects.

At the beginning Spanish sculpture did not follow the dynamism and theatrality of the Italian models and was directly linked to the Renaissance and Mannerism, with the only advance of the naturalism. From mid 17th century and on, in the Court and in Andalusia it started the Berninian baroque that was fully incorporated at the end of the century.

There are two main sculpture regions in Spain. Both schools are hyper realistic:
-Castile, with Valladolid, where Gregorio Fernandez worked.
Images are injured, with pain or emotion always in surface; realism is violent, of dramatic gestures. Fernandez abandoned the golden effect to change them by plain colours.

-Andalusia, centred in Seville, with Juan Martínez Montañés, and in Granade with Alonso Cano and Pedro de Mena.
It is quiet, calm, looking for the correct beauty without forgetting the spiritual content. It is the classicist realism that drove to the mystic exaltation. They maintained largely the use of gold.

In the 18th century the Levantine group appeared, in Elche but mainly in Murcia, with Francisco Salzillo, the author who closes the baroque sculpture and opens the taste for the classicism.

Baroque Architecture in Spain

Baroque period in Spain is known as the Golden Century due to the splendour experienced by culture in this moment in which there was a general crisis in politics, society and economy. During the Baroque there is an evolution of the tastes and fashions that can be divided into three big periods:

· First period (mid 17th century): the beginnings. The influence of Herrera (Escorial) and the transition to the new models coming from Italy.
· Second period (last third of the 17th century and first of the 18th): plenitude. Churriguera brothers, Ribera, Tomé, Figueroa developed a decorative language; architecture becomes more dynamic.
· Third period (rest of the 18th century): continuity and change. Rococo style, with evident French and Italian influences developed thanks to the change of dynasty.

General characteristics.
Herrerian models lasted due to the great influence of the Escorial. The architecture of palaces is homogeneous. The kind called Austrian has towers on the sides of the façade, cover with chapitel and roof of slate (pizarra). There were severe buildings from the outside even when the inside was very comfortable.

The structures of the churches are very simple, with encamonades domes and Jesuitical plan (a nave and chapels in the buttresses), with austere decoration. The interiors are filled with golden altarpieces that are becoming more complicate with the time.

From mid 18th century the Italian influence is limited. In the outside the facades are conceived as the altarpieces. This style is more decorative and lasts until the first decade of the 18th century, under the direction of the courtesan architects who work for the Bourbons.

Worry about urbanism, with the development of major squares (Valladolid, Madrid, Salamanca). They tend to be rectangular, with porticos and balconies.

Architects of each period are:
-First half of 17th century:
·Juan Gomez de Mora: Madrid Square, Madrid Council House.
· Alonso de Carbonell: Palace of the Buen Retiro
-Mid 17th century:
· Alonso Cano: Granada’s cathedral
-Transition to 18th century:
· Churriguera: Altarpiece of Saint Esteban of Salamanca, Salamanca’s Square
· Pedro de Ribera: Façade of the Hospice in Madrid
· Narciso Tomé: Toledo’s cathedral transparent
· Sabatini: Aranjuez Palace · Juvara: Madrid’s Royal Palace.

martes, 12 de febrero de 2008

Baroque Painting

The main quality of baroque painting is its link to reality. This is conditioned by the persuasive interest of the Catholic Church, the advertising and political interest of the absolute monarchies and the valuation the protestant bourgeoisie made of the individual and daily activity. This link is also the result of an stylistic evolution: when at the end of 16th century the artists are aware of the purely aesthetic and counter naturalism of the Mannerism, they resource to the new, choosing that refused by the Mannerism: reality and nature.

Due to the variety of nationalities and different schools there are just a few common characteristics:

Realism. Models are found in nature, without idealisation, even reaching to naturalism. The worries about of the psychological state, the feelings, is on line with the naturalistic depiction of reality.

Dominance of colour over drawing. The big masters use stains to define the shapes, as in the case of Velazquez and Rembrant. Things are painted as they are seen in the reality, with colour stains and light, loosing details and with imprecise contours.

Continuous deepness
. Rigorous lineal perspective is abandoned and to obtain the sensation of deepness the resources used are convergent lines, series of scorzos , an enormous foreground, a dark foreground, plays of lights and shades, plasmation of atmospheric effects.

Hegemony of light. Leonardo’s sfumato is abandoned to pass to plans of light and shades where the shapes are defined with great precision. The baroque is the art of depicting pictorially the light and, consequently, the shade plays a role unknown until the moment, especially during the firs tenebrous experiments. In the baroque the shape is subordinated to the light and, sometimes, the shapes may disappear due to the feebleness of intensity of the light reflects.

Freedom of composition. Asymmetric and non tectonic compositions are dominant. The instinctive trend to put the main image in the centre and to paint to halves on the canvas (symmetry) is lost. Similarly, horizontal and vertical lines combinations are abandoned (tectonic composition). The artists prefer disequilibrium or something that suggests that the scene continues further than the limits of the frame. This non tectonic composition is achieved through diagonal lines that substitute the pyramidal compositions of the former century. Sometimes broken shapes are used to indicate that not everything ends on the canvas.

Worry to depict movement. Baroque painting is the painting of the life and this can not be represented under static forms. Turmoil is put before quietness. Images are instable and scorzos and waves multiply. Sometimes that movement does not exist and the excess of calm is due to the desire of filling the image of religious transcendence.

Techniques. The importance of the colour and the desire of showing it in all his splendour forces the authors to forget about the temple and oil painting and canvas are generalised, being sometimes of big proportions. Fresco continues being used to decorate walls and vaults.

Subjects. The variety of schools results in a wide range of subjects. Religious paintings are common, as the depictions of the Virgin (Immaculate, Piety), evangelical stories, charity, sacraments (mainly Penitence and Eucharist), series about saints’ lives and their religious experiences and images of death (vanitas). This repertoire is basic in Spanish painting. Nudes are forbidden in religious images, and they are limited to the allegories and mythologies. Pagan stories are common in France and Flanders. Dutch painters prefer group portrait and landscape with all its varieties: daily life images very realistic, interiors, sea-views, naval battles. Architecture can become a subject in itself, the same as still-life. In conclusion, the subject variety does not imply national specialization.

Although the great development of baroque painting all over Europe is evident, Italy is again the place where the first innovations take place. There are three great currents: Classicism represented by Carraci, where the tension between naturalist realism and idealised classicism is constant. The second current is the decorative painting, that continues producing frescoes, appropriated for ceilings and vaults, with amazing celestial perspective that break the ceilings and connect sky and land. Finally, the naturalist tenebrism represented by Caravaggio, the real revolutionary of baroque painting. This author has a radical and breaking use of light that becomes a key element in the work.

Baroque sculpture

It is one of the most popular arts. The clients are church and nobility, the same as during the Renaissance. Sculpture is the vehicle to express different religious believes and it can also be a way of showing and advertising power. Many works are located in public places such as squares and fountains.

Baroque images multiply the points of view from which they can be seen. In general, they tend to open structures, with complicated lines, being the diagonal the most commonly used. Artists demonstrate interest for the effects of light and in order to achieve this aim they give different treatment to the surfaces or even resource to breaking the wall in order to get the light they want for a deter effect.

Materials suffer a change too. Even when white marble continues being the most commonly extended, there are several works in which different materials are combined. Anything can be used in order to achieve spectacle. Gestures are grandiloquent and characters are depicted with human treatment. Even mythological and religious images are full of humanity and passions.

Technically, volumes are perfectly organised as to offer the desired effect. Other characteristics are: taste for tension and drama, that leads the authors to represent only moments of maximum tension. In addition to this, they include violent contrast of light and shadows.

Related to the typology, it is very varied, including relieves, portraits, equestrian portraits, allegories, mythological stories, religious, fountains, pantheons and, in the case of Spain, Easter sculptures.

There are regional differences, being the Italian Bernini the most reputed sculptor of the Baroque period. This artist was formed as a sculptor in his father workshop where he entered in contact with Michelangelo’s work and the collections of Greek-Hellenistic sculpture. He worked in Rome, under the patronage of different popes. His style evolved from the tormented images of the Mannerism to images in which he capsized the physical movement as a result of the action he was depicting. It is a style of great dynamism and dramatic intensity of great technical perfection. He produced all the possible subjects, ranging from the mythological to the religious, passing by the portrait, the allegory or the funeral monument. As an urbanist he also projected and produced ornamental fountains in Roman squares. Examples of his works are: Apollo and Daphne, David, Ludovica Albertoni, Sainte Therese Ecstasy, Fountain of the Four Rivers, Tomb of Urbano VII.

In France, there are two reputed authors. Girardon worked with a quite classical conception. He produced fountains, as Apollo Tended by Nymphs, and Pantheons, such as that of Richelieu. Puget made an impassioned work in which he expressed physical vigour and emotional intensity, as in Milon of Crotona.

lunes, 11 de febrero de 2008

Baroque Architecture

The word means imperfection. There is a new naturalism that reflect the scientific advances and a taste for dramatic action and emotion that is reflected in the contrast of light and colour, the use of rich textures, the creation of asymmetrical spaces and diagonal plans.

There is a geographical variety in the style and the art is at the service of power, being it that of the church or that of the monarchy. Due to this, there are two main centres: Rome with the Pope’s authority, and France, model of absolutist monarchy. In addition to this, the influence of Counter-Reform was evident. All these elements influence in the worry about plastic values.
Architecture is marked by the rich use of plan forms, in which circular and central dominate over the long narrow naves of the former styles. Ornamentation is essential and the dramatic use of light gains a plastic value. Ceilings appear decorated with large-scale frescoes depicting impossible perspective while façades are dominated by central projections and illusory effects. The forms are an evolution from the Renaissance’s ones but now movement dominates structure with flowing, curving shapes. Even landscape is incorporated and elements such as gardens, squares, courtyards and fountains become an architectonical element. In this period, the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s cathedral influenced largely the architecture.
Italy marked the most advanced style, while other countries such as France are going to be more classical. Architects working in Italy were Maderno, who finished the Vaticano’s façade, Longhena, author of Sainte Marie of the Salute in Venice, but, above all, there are two important masters: Bernini and Borromini.

Bernini, being an architect, sculptor and painter, created a fusion of these arts in his works. He resourced frequently to the use of false perspectives and trompe-l’oeil to impact in the spectator. With him façades became a model with massive pilasters above a rusticated base. Some of his works are the design of Saint Peter’s Square, the Baldaquin, Santa Andrea.

Borromini´s works spring from the contrast between convention and freedom. He used tradition as a basis but not as a law. His works are full of complicated structures, walls full of curves, wavy façades, dramatically broken pediments and impossible domes. Some of his works are San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, San Carlos Borromeo, Oratorio degli Fillipenses.

In France the Baroque style was elegant, ordered, rational and restricted. The models are rectilinear, closer to classicism. It aimed at showing the power of Louis XIVth monarchy. The most representative buildings are the Louvre, built by Le Vau and Perrault, and Versailles, where Le Brun and Le Vau built the palace that is accompanied by the gardens designed by Le Notre.

In Central Europe Baroque developed late due to the Thirty Years War. In Austria it are important the figures of Fischer von Erlach and Hildebrant. In Germany there is an important influence of the Jesuits in the South, while in the North, protestant, the style is not so important. Palace architecture was important in the whole area. In England the main architect was Wren and the Baroque style was used to design town planning. The Russian version of the style is very decorative, in quite traditional churches, sometimes made of brick; later on the plain Baroque was imported from the Low Countries to end by becoming an extravagant art.

In Spain there were important changes during the Baroque period. The style evolved from the influences of the Escorial to decorated styles. This decoration is centred on the façade, while the rest of the building is made in a more sober way. During the Rococo a new style developed. Name Churrigueresco, after the name of the architects family who created the style, it is characterised by the exaggerated decoration around the door.
Spanish Baroque influenced in America where Plateresque style (the last Spanish Renaissance) was largely imitated and afterwards Churrigueresco developed, mainly in Mexico.

sábado, 9 de febrero de 2008

Spanish painting of the Renaissance: El Greco.

This artist’s work is easy to identify due to the deformation of his characters. This characteristic is controversial and while some people attribute it to his astigmatism, others consider that it is only due to his faith. This last theory is based on several points: to make longer images was a resource used in the Gothic; it is a way of underlining the remote and divine; all the masters from whom El Greco received influences used it (Byzantine school, Venetian school and Italian mannerists).

The theory of the astigmatism looks to be a bit weaker because El Greco does not use this deformation always. He prefers to restrict it to some images. For example, in the Burial of the Count of Orgaz terrene characters are normal while divine are deformed.

Being the explanations one or the other, it is true that this deformation was more marked as long as the artist was getting older.

Apart from the deformations El Greco’s work is know because of his colour. Formed in contact with the Venetian school, he introduced vivid colours in his palette. A majority of the times these brilliant images are reserved for just a part of the painting, while the rest is darker. This underlines the dramatic polychrome effect.

A good part of his work is constituted by his religious paintings, but he also realised several portraits, in which he managed to capsize the psychological characteristics of his models. These images are always represented in a neutral and dark background, as if they emerged from the darkness.

He also realised some mythological images, such as Laocoon. Other important work is his View of Toledo, a very personal interpretation of the city in which he spent a majority of his life in Spain.

jueves, 7 de febrero de 2008

Spanish sculpture of the Renaissance

The pagan style of Italian sculpture was not followed in Spain. Anything that aimed at the exaltation the human forms in detriment of the expression was refused as something contrary to the Christian sculpture. Classical principles are accepted in decorative and funerary sculpture because these were made on commandment but the rest follow the medieval tradition, in which the work depicted some religious ideas, even if disgusting. It is not just a work for decorating altars but an expression of popular devotion. These ideas followed the ideas of Trento’s Council.

The image and the polychrome sculpture:
The favourite material was polychrome wood. When stone, marble or alabaster are used it is in a very scarce proportion respective to wood, that is considered as the ideal material to express devotion.

The most commonly used is pine. The artist works in it. Once he finished the work is “white” so his next work is to add the polychrome effects. The image is covered with wax, without eliminating any element of the carving. Over this are applied the colours of the skin and the clothes. For a better depiction of clothes other materials such as golden papers are used. Colours were added afterwards with the quilt technique. The result is a brilliant image that tries to represent popular devotion.

Evolution of the Spanish sculpture:
At the beginning of 16th century several Italian artist work in Spain (Torrigiano, Fancelli) or Italian works are imported. The most demanded works are tombs made in marble. In Spain artists such as Bartolomé Ordoñez or Diego de Siloé work in some sepulchres that continue, in some way, the Gothic tradition.

The two masters of the Spanish Renaissance work in Valladolid: Alonso Berruguete and Juan de Juni.

Alonso Berruguete travelled to Italy where he knew the work of Donatello and Michelangelo but in his work dramatist elements dominate over harmony and serenity. In some way he anticipates the Baroque. He is not interested in a perfect depiction but in an intellectual elaboration related to a transcendent idea. Signify dominates over sensuality and beauty. His style is dominated by dynamism, lack of symmetry in the faces and anatomies, non repetition of the images, gestures or attitudes, variety in the study of hands and special interest in the contraposto, creating a much curved image, sometimes helicoidally represented. He expresses anguish, dynamism and drama. He can recourse to establish a hierarchy of images, putting one over another, inverted perspectives. All in all, he renounces to beauty in benefit of the spiritual expression. Among his works we can find: San Sebastian, chairs of the Toledo Cathedral.

Juan de Juni has an slow a detailed way of working but his results are magnificent due to their tragic dimension and their brilliant polychrome effects. His images are big, with theatrical gestures. Compositions are too complicated due to the lack of space that announces the Mannerism. He received Michelangelo’s influences. He is not interested in representing physical sufferance, but the spiritual. Images are concentrated, with a bended profile, creating and helix in the space. He finishes the works perfectly, as can be seen in his Piety, Death Christ and Holy Burials.