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INTRODUCTION TO ART, MUSIC AND LITERATURE Introduction to art, music and literature PAGE: 2 2008 Outline: A) Introduction: main trends in baroque painting. B) Discussion of selected paintings: 1) The Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio; 2) The Night Watch by Rembrandt; 3) Woman Reading a Letter by Vermeer. C) Conclusion. Thesis: The art of baroque period originated from the desire of Catholic Church to receive emotional response of people to the depictions of religious scenes. Still meant to impress with its splendor and grandeur, it later gained more dynamic, achieved by the play of light and shade, and departed from the conventionals, getting more and more realistic. The tendency is well seen when discussing the works of Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. DATE: November 6, 08 Introduction to art, music and literature PAGE: 3 Originated in Italy at the end of the 15th century and then spread to France, Germany, Netherlands, and Spain baroque painting is characterized by three main directions. The first one was influenced by Catholic Church in response to Reformation. Catholics used art to appeal to the wide range of people. The typical for baroque, full of dramatic expression figures which illuminated at the dark background were meant to impress and amaze. Later, however, the baroque style was adopted by Protestant countries as well. Bernini and Rubens were the bright representatives of the direction. There were also painters who left the church cannons and depicted every day life, avoiding idealization. It was especially typical for Caravaggio’s paintings. In Flemish countries the bright representatives of this direction were Rembrandt and Vermeer. The whole period of baroque was marked by rapid development of science and exploration, so it is also called Age of Enlightenment. The time also coincided with economic growth of monarchies in Europe and demonstrates the strength of their power and therefore is sometimes referred to as the art of absolutism (Baroque. Art history). Baroque clings to much decorations, spectacular surroundings, and the dramatic contrast of light and shade. Emphasizing on movement, it makes the gestures of the depicted people especially emotional (Baroque. Online Encyclopedia of Painting). Michelangelo Merisi or Caravaggio, born September 28, 1573 in the Lombardy hill town of Caravaggio, was one of the most influential painters of the time. His paintings, which combined naturalistic realism of figures with theatrical contrast of light and shade and often depicted religious scenes, were of great interest for the new Catholic churches being built in Rome. Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte became the first patron of Caravaggio, from whom he got his first public commission (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Art history). The task was a DATE: November 6, 08 Introduction to art, music and literature PAGE: 4 series of pictures from saints’ life which included St Matthew and the Angel, The Calling of St Matthew, and The Martyrdom of St Matthew. Thus mannerism was defeated by realistic naturalism, and Caravaggio’s Calling of St Matthew reflects this triumph of realism. Caravaggio’s innovations in painting arose public delight. The Calling of St Matthew depicts two men having an argument: Christ and Metthew, a toll collector. Christ, entering the room, is in a burst of light, while Matthew is in a shade, counting coins surrounded by gaily dressed idlers armed with swords. A viewer sees the group of the toll collector as if dissolved, while Christ appears distinct and bright. If looking more attentively at the picture details, for instance at the face of Christ, the meaning of the dramatic use of light reveals: some parts of it are illuminated, while the others are plunged into darkness, which focuses the details and strengthens emotional tension. The series of painting Caravagio made for Contarelli Chapel, including Calling of St Matthew, marked a new stage for art of that period (Life of Carravagio). The Night Watch painted by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was also full of dynamics and emotion, conveyed by means dramatic illumination, however, it was not as highly esteemed as Caravaggio’s works. Kloveniersdoelen, the musketeer branch of the civic militia was not satisfied with the picture. Depicting the musketeers Rembrandt showed them involved into action, as if ready to engage into a mission. (Rembrandt. Wikipedia) This did not meet their expectations, as they wished stately and line-up scene, rather then dynamic one. Just like typical baroque painting, it emphasizes details with light. The only well illuminated figures are the lieutenant, and a blond haired girl so that a viewer can see all the details of their smart dressing. The other figures are covered by shade, only the heads are illuminated. That creates mystery and makes one’s imagination work, involving viewer into the scene. Within the years of debate, the DATE: November 6, 08 Introduction to art, music and literature PAGE: 5 masterpiece was finally recognized as success and now occupies the rear wall of the largest gallery in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (History of Holland: Rembrandt and the Night Watch). As regards Johannes Vermeer, an outstanding painter of the 17th century, he also practiced playing with shade and light, but he used to make colors transparent and the illumination mild. Domestic scenes were dominating theme of his paintings, therefore most of them give a viewer warm and peaceful impression. Woman Reading a Letter fits into the pattern. The woman is stands as if pondering over something. Her figure, placed in the light which apparently comes out of the window, is contrasted by the dark brown map and is therefore eye-catching for a viewer, while the blue chairs loose in significance. The effect is also strengthened by the fact that the chairs and the map cast a distinct shadow, while the woman does not, which makes her figure even brighter at the light background of the wall. The combination of deliberately depicted outlines (such as the darkened woman’s back and hair) and fuzzy lines (her illuminated face) help to focus viewer’s attention at the right things and play an important role in perception of the picture. The distinctive feature of this picture, as well as of all the Vermeer’s paintings, came to be delicate and sophisticated palette. The tints of brown and blue of different intense contribute to the painter’s purpose of laying emphasis so that a viewer does not have to examine thoroughly the picture to guess its meaning: it impresses by its simplicity (Johannes Vermeer masterpieces. Rijksmuseum). The picture is also belongs to the collection of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. The discussed above paintings by Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Vermeer reflected the tendencies in baroque art: its favor for volumes and grandeurs, as well as, its hallmark – focusing viewer’s attention with the use if light and shade. DATE: November 6, 08 Introduction to art, music and literature PAGE: 6 Works cited: 1. Baroque. Art history. Retrieved November 5 http://www.huntfor.com/arthistory/c17th-mid19th/baroque.htm 2. Baroque. Online encyclopedia of painting. Retrieved November 6 http://www.ethnicpaintings.com/popular-painting-styles/baroque.html 3. Johannes Vermeer masterpieces. Rijksmuseum. Retrieved November 4 http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/aria/aria_assets/SK-C-251?lang=en 4. History of Holland: Rembrandt and the Night Watch. Retrieved November 5 http://www.historyofholland.com/rembrandt-and-the-nightwatch.html 5. Life of Caravaggio. Retrieved November 6 http://www.lib-art.com/art.php?id=143 6. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Art history. Retrieved November 5 http://www.huntfor.com/absoluteig/caravaggio.htm 7. Rembrandt. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved 4 November http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt#Night_Watch DATE: November 6, 08

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