An attempt to stop these corrupt actions of the

An art movement is defined as an artistic tendency or style with a common ideology that spans over a restricted period of time.  Europe in the early 17th to 18th century proved to be an artistic period where artists could embrace  “dynamism, theatricality, and elaborate ornamentation, all used to spectacular effect, often on a grandiose scale” (Kleiner).  This period was known as the Baroque; an art movement which flourished greatly and featured a diverse variety of innovative styles and genres, whether it be by producing dramatic tension, grandeur, or exuberance from various media.  However, these defining characteristics of Baroque art were only developed due to the period’s rich history regarding the divide between Protestantism and Catholicism. The first embers of Protestantism sparked with the creation of Martin Luther’s 95 theses in response to the Catholic Church’s increasing corruptness in 1517.  It was during this time that the Church would sell indulgences to provide absolution to sinners, despite being prohibited and contrary to the Church’s Middle Age teachings regarding salvation only being attainable through righteous acts.  In an attempt to stop these corrupt actions of the Church, Luther came to develop his 95 theses, which shared the same beliefs as the Middle Age teachings, and would later form the basic foundation of Protestantism.  It was not long until the messages in the 95 Theses began to rapidly spread, resulting in the creation of the Protestant Reformation; a religious movement in which the tradition of Catholic art was nearly entirely abolished by the Protestants with the aim of reforming the practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  This reformation resulted in a religious divide of Europe with Catholicism flourishing in the south and Protestantism taking root in the north.  Not only did these newfound beliefs impact northern Europe’s opinions on the Church, it also changed the concept of religious art.  For example, in an attempt to demonstrate how scenery of everyday life was more important than depicting religion (as many Roman Catholic Church based art specifically portrayed biblical events and figures), many Protestant works of art featured simple and unbiblical subject matter in order to remind their viewers that the paintings are symbolic of the divine, but are not holy in themselves.  Thus, the entire base of Protestant was to feature the beauty of God’s creations, rather than of God himself.  Additionally, these works were seldom in areas of worship, meaning that the Protestant churches were normally empty of statues or paintings contrary to the Catholic Church.  However, these artistic characteristics that came with the Protestant Revolution would change with the rise of the Counter-Reformation and the Baroque art movement. Unlike the Protestant’s removal of art from religion, the Catholic Church continued to encourage and spread religious art in order to glorify God and Catholic traditions thanks to their retaliation against the Protestant Reformation, known as the Counter-Reformation, which lasted from 1545 to 1648.  The retaliation began with the Catholic Church’s series of council discussions (the Council of Trent), where the Church was able to determine how the arts should remain communicating religious themes and direct involvement between the viewer and God in contrast to the Protestant indirect views of art.  This response was accomplished with the birth and development of the Baroque art movement; an artistic period which featured art pieces encouraged by the Catholic church and displayed an exceptional use of bold colours, energy, contrast, detail, dynamic drama, and movement, opposite to the simplistic nature of Protestant art.  A key example of a Baroque style painting includes Peter Paul Rubens 1610 oil on canvas painting, The Elevation of the Cross, since it features direct religious subject matter, appeals to the senses, utilizes contrast through light and dark values, and depicts a dramatic scene.  With the creation of Ruben’s and other Baroque style religious paintings, several painters were tasked with producing more works in order to refill the churches with religious paintings (since art was removed in churches at the time of the Protestant Reformation).  However, the Baroque style did not stop there, in fact, the style began to spread throughout all of Europe and eventually led to even non-Catholic artists adopting the realistic, dramatic, and detailed style to be shown in their own works.  A prominent example of an artist who was not of Catholic roots but featured the Baroque style in his work was protestant Anthony Van Dyck and his emotion-filled, dramatic painting, The Crucifixion.  It was clear that the Church’s retaliation sparked a new progression of art which influenced more than those it initially targeted.  It appeared as though the Baroque movement finally brought some unity to a time of religious divide. To conclude, the Baroque movement was a highly influential European art movement that emerged during a time of religious division and desperation.  The style was encouraged by the Catholic Church in a attempt to contrast the simplistic and non religious traits of Protestant art by instead depicting dynamic and elaborately detailed religious subject matter.  Thus, the movement was developed not only to showcase specific artistic characteristics but to also influence the religious history of the time.


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