Baroque Guide: Artistic Style of the 17th-18th Centuries
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is Baroque?
  2. Baroque Art
  3. Baroque Architecture
  4. Baroque Music
  5. Baroque Literature
  6. Baroque Fashion
  7. Notable Baroque Artists and Works
  8. Baroque Influence in Modern Art

Do you ever look at a piece of art, listen to a piece of music, or see a building and wonder: "What era is this from?" If you've ever asked yourself that question, you're in the right place. Today, we will dive into one of the most fascinating periods in history — the Baroque era. We'll explore what Baroque is, peek into its different forms, and discover its impact on the world. So, get ready for a journey into the 17th and 18th centuries!

What is Baroque?

When we talk about the word Baroque, we're referring to a style that originated in Europe between the 17th and 18th centuries. It's a term that paints a vivid picture of extravagance, complexity, and drama. To understand the definition of Baroque, let's break it down into bite-sized points:

  • Ornate Detail: The Baroque style is known for its intricate and ornate details. Think of an over-the-top movie set or a royal palace, and you'll get the idea.
  • Following Mannerism: Baroque didn't just appear out of nowhere. It followed an artistic style called Mannerism, which was known for its artificiality and stylized poses.
  • Architecture: Ever heard of the Palace of Versailles in France? That's a prime example of Baroque architecture. In Italy, Bernini was a major contributor to Baroque architecture.
  • Music: Baroque music has its own charm. Composers like Vivaldi, Bach, and Handel gave us some of the most memorable music pieces during this period.
  • Art: When it comes to art, Caravaggio and Rubens were significant Baroque artists who brought the style to life on canvas.

Now that you have a basic definition of Baroque, we'll delve into the different forms of this style in the upcoming sections. From art to fashion, the Baroque era had a unique take on everything. But remember, Baroque is not just a historical period—it's an artistic revolution that still influences modern art.

Baroque Art

Let's step into the world of Baroque art. If you imagine walking into a gallery displaying Baroque art, the first thing you will notice is the drama. Yes, it's like stepping into a theatre, with art pieces that are bursting with emotion, movement, and color. So, what makes Baroque art so special? Let's explore.

  • Dramatic Light: One of the key characteristics of Baroque art is the use of light and shadow to create a sense of depth and volume. This technique is also known as chiaroscuro. Artists like Caravaggio were masters of this.
  • Emotion: Baroque art is all about expressing emotion. Whether it's a painting of a biblical scene or a portrait, the goal was to evoke a reaction from the viewer.
  • Realism: While the Renaissance period focused on idealized beauty, Baroque art brought a touch of realism. Artists of this era weren't afraid to show the world as it was—with all its beauty and flaws.

To truly understand the definition of Baroque art, you need to see it for yourself. Whether it's a painting by Caravaggio or a sculpture by Bernini, each piece tells a story that is as captivating as it is complex. And remember, while the Baroque period may have ended centuries ago, its influence continues to echo in the art world today.

Baroque Architecture

Now, imagine stepping outside that gallery and walking right into a city square dominated by a Baroque cathedral. What would you see? The architecture, like the art, captures your heart and your imagination. Baroque architecture, just like Baroque art, is all about drama and grandeur.

  • Grand Scale: Everything in Baroque architecture is big—big buildings, big domes, and big emotions. The architects of this period aimed to impress and inspire awe. It was about making a statement.
  • Ornate Details: Another distinguishing characteristic of Baroque architecture is the lavish decoration. From statues to reliefs, every surface is covered with intricate designs that reflect the grandeur of the era.
  • Illusion: Baroque architects loved to play with perception. They used techniques like trompe l'oeil, which creates optical illusions, to make buildings appear more impressive.

By now, you should have a better understanding of the definition of Baroque architecture. It's more than just a style—it's a statement, a declaration of power and wealth. And even if you've never visited a Baroque building, you can still appreciate the beauty and complexity of this architectural style. After all, it's not just about the building—it's about the experience.

Baroque Music

Have you ever listened to a piece of music that seemed to sweep you off your feet with its grandeur and complexity? If so, you may have been listening to Baroque music. This period in music history, like its counterparts in art and architecture, was all about emotional intensity and intricate designs.

  • Ornate Melodies: Baroque music is known for its elaborate melodies. Composers during this time didn't hold back—they packed their pieces full of notes, creating intricate lines that demand attention.
  • Contrast: Just as Baroque art played with light and shadow, Baroque music uses contrast. This could be a switch from a fast tempo to a slow one or a shift from a major key to a minor one. These contrasts add drama to the music.
  • Harpsichord: If you're wondering what instrument is often associated with Baroque music, it's the harpsichord. This keyboard instrument, with its distinctive twangy sound, was the backbone of many compositions.

So, now that you're familiar with the definition of Baroque in music, why not give it a listen? You might find that it speaks to you in ways you never expected. Music, after all, is a language that transcends borders and time periods—just like Baroque itself.

Baroque Literature

Just as Baroque music and art are full of intricate designs and emotional intensity, Baroque literature is also characterized by complex ideas and a deep exploration of emotions. Let's dive into the elements that make up the definition of Baroque in literature.

  • Complexity: Baroque literature is known for its intricate plots and elaborate use of language. This isn't the type of writing you breeze through—it makes you think, ponder, and maybe even reread a few lines.
  • Emotion: Just as in Baroque art and music, there's a deep sense of emotion in Baroque literature. Writers of this time didn't shy away from exploring the human condition in all its beauty and ugliness.
  • Religion and Philosophy: The Baroque period was a time of great change in Europe, and this is reflected in its literature. Expect to see lots of references to religion and philosophy as writers grapple with these big ideas.

So, with these elements in mind, next time you pick up a book from the Baroque period, you'll have a better understanding of what makes it tick. Remember, literature, like all art, is a reflection of the time and place in which it was written. And in the case of Baroque literature, it's a reflection of a time of grandeur, complexity, and deep emotional exploration.

Baroque Fashion

When we say Baroque, we often think of art, music, architecture, and literature. But did you know that fashion also had its own Baroque moment? That's right, the Baroque period significantly influenced the world of fashion and set trends that have echoed through centuries. Let's explore the definition of Baroque in the context of fashion.

  • Luxury: Baroque fashion is synonymous with luxury. Think of heavy brocades, rich velvets, and exquisite lace. Clothes were designed to impress, showcasing wealth and social status.
  • Detail: In line with other Baroque art forms, fashion of this era was all about intricate details. Embroidery, ruffles, ribbons, and pearls were commonplace. Nothing was too much!
  • Dramatic Silhouettes: Baroque fashion is memorable for its dramatic silhouettes. Women's dresses had wide, puffed sleeves and voluminous skirts, while men's attire often featured broad shoulders and cinched waists.

So, the next time you see a period drama set in the 17th or 18th century, take a closer look at the costumes. You'll likely spot some of these Baroque fashion traits. It's fascinating to see how the definition of Baroque extends into so many aspects of life during this period, isn't it?

Notable Baroque Artists and Works

Art, in all its forms, flourished during the Baroque period. A lot of big names that you might recall from your art history class were actually Baroque artists. Let's dive into the definition of Baroque by looking at some notable artists and their masterpieces from this era.

  1. Caravaggio: He was a game-changer. With his dramatic use of light and shadow, his works like 'The Calling of St. Matthew' became iconic examples of Baroque painting.
  2. Peter Paul Rubens: If you know one thing about Rubens, it's probably that he liked his subjects—well, let's say, fuller than was common back then. His painting 'The Descent from the Cross' is a prime example of his style.
  3. Gian Lorenzo Bernini: He was not just a sculptor; he was a true rock star of his time. His statue 'The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa' is a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture, filled with emotion and movement.
  4. Johann Sebastian Bach: In the realm of music, Bach was a Baroque superstar. His 'Brandenburg Concertos' are still beloved and widely performed today.

So there you have it—a definition of Baroque through some of the most influential artists and works of the time. Each of these artists contributed to the rich tapestry of the Baroque era, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to inspire and intrigue.

Baroque Influence in Modern Art

Now that we've defined Baroque and explored its main contributors, let's see how this artistic style impacts modern art. Yes, it's true—the influence of Baroque didn't end with the 18th century. It continues to shape the art world in ways you might not realize.

Take cinema, for instance. Have you noticed how some directors love to play with light and shadow to create dramatic scenes? That's a nod to Baroque. Caravaggio would be proud. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott have been known to use Baroque lighting techniques to enhance the visual storytelling in their films.

And then there's fashion. Designers like Alexander McQueen and John Galliano have often referenced Baroque aesthetics in their collections. The lavish detailing, the bold use of color, the dramatic silhouettes—all these elements echo the Baroque era.

Even in music, the Baroque influence is heard. From the complex harmonies of jazz to the theatrical performances of artists like Lady Gaga, the spirit of Baroque is alive and well.

So, the next time you watch a movie, or admire a fashion show, or listen to your favorite song, remember: the definition of Baroque goes beyond the 17th-18th centuries. It's a timeless style that continues to leave its mark on the art world.

If you enjoyed learning about the Baroque artistic style and are interested in creating your own complex illustrations, check out Juliet Schreckinger's workshop, 'Composing Complex Illustrations using Basic Shapes.' This workshop will teach you how to break down complex images into simpler shapes, making it easier for you to create your own Baroque-inspired masterpieces!