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Baroque art – Norman Brodeur

Norman Brodeur is an artist, a painter who is highly influenced by the Spanish arts, and specialized in portraits. For him painting is a way of expression, it’s construction, innovation and interpretation.
Baroque is a cultural movement that happened between the 17th and 18th century. Norman Brodeur tell us that the word comes from “Baroque”, meaning “irregular pearl” and was actually created after the movement’s end, in the 19th century. Baroque was used initially in a deprecating way, describing the excesses, drama, the eccentric redundancy and the chaos, a clear contrast of Renaissance with its clear rationality.
Originally, the Baroque period was seen as a passage between Renaissance and Neoclassicism. However, the Baroque art is more than just a bridge affirm Norman Brodeur, in fact some of the principal characteristics of this movement continued in the succeeding periods, like Rococo and Romanticism.

Baroque history
Norman Brodeur puts Baroque as a reflection of the changes in politics and culture across Europe beginning in the 1600’s. It started in Rome and Italy, before spread to most of Europe, in Germany, for example, the style became popular just in the 18th century. These years were characterized as the commotion between the Catholic Church and its supporters, looking to maintain the status quo, and the reformists, who belonged to the new religious movements.
The Catholic Church, stimulated its success after the Council of Trent, where it decided that the arts must express religious themes, with an emotional involvement. The decision was a response to the Protestant Reform, tells Norman Brodeur. The aristocracy soon joined the encouragement, and saw the dramatic style as a way to impress visitors in the architecture and art and expressing the victories, influence and control.

Baroque characteristics
Even though Baroque embraced a variety of styles and characteristics, Norman Brodeur says that two characteristics defined the period: the feeling of greatness or richness and the excess of emotional content, both evoked in over dramatic ways. There were a lot of innovations during this time, specially in the paintings. Norman Brodeur listed them:
· While in Renaissance painting the line was the principal item, in Baroque the preferential was a “spot picture”, full of colors;
· The use of lights and shadows was another innovation on the baroque period. The technique called Chiaroscuro, using light in connection with shadows, was widely utilized by the painters of the movement;
· The renaissance period has the use of perspective as one of its characteristics, showing depth in spaces by utilizing mathematical calculations for it. Baroque goes against this, showing depth sensation in different ways with light and shadow;
· Baroque also stopped with the asymmetric composition of the Renaissance, displaying a disequilibrium and figures that continued out of the composition;
· Baroque also brings movement to its composition, with diagonal lines in addition to undulations.
Baroque is then characterized by drama, opulence, passion, tension, exuberance, a deep use of color, intense light and dark shadows and effortlessly interpreted details. These characteristics can be seen in paintings, literature, architecture, sculpture, music and theater, says Norman J. Brodeur.

Baroque paintings
Also called landscapes paintings, Baroque paintings showed genre scenes, portraits or historical scenes, with a high technical standard, often showed the exact, most dramatic point of the action. Norman J. Brodeur says the style was heavily influenced by developments in science and geographical explorations of the globe, producing a sense of insignificance and complexity. Because of the explorations it is common to see humans represented as miniature figures next to a vast natural background.
Norman J. Brodeur places his favorite, the Baroque paintings in walls and ceilings of churches and palaces, with vast and busy sceneries. These type of paintings became almost an absolute rule, combining all the features of the time, the drama, the greatness, the movement, the illustration of infinity, and the predisposition to combine various forms of art, to give a unified effect.
Many painters of the time specialized in these ceiling paintings, such as Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), Guido Reni (1575-1642), Domenichino (1581-1641), Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647) and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-64).
In the late 1570s, the center of the Counter-Reformation was Spain, what brought the baroque characteristics to the country and its painters. Norman J. Brodeur’s favorite Spanish artist is Mannerist El Greco (1541-1614), who was heavily inspired by the forms, the lights and the shadows of the new movement, and started painting pictures of enormous dimensions and historical facts. In the middle of El Greco’s greatest paintings, most are of religious content, like the illustration of the miracle at the funeral of Count Orgaz.
Other members of the Spanish Baroque movement are Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652), Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664), and Diego Velazquez (1599-1660). All big influences on Norman J. Brodeur art.