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Baroque and Classicism


The Baroque refers to the works of painting created in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Politically this historical period is divided into the Absolutism and Counter-Reformation. Baroque painting is characterized by dynamism, as well as “plane” pomp and forms. The most characteristic features of the Baroque art are showy flamboyance and dynamism.

In turn, classicism is an artistic style and aesthetic direction in the European art from the seventeenth to nineteenth century. The heart of classical rationalism is ideas formed at the same time based on the philosophy of Descartes. Artworks of this period should be built following strict canons, thereby detecting harmony and consistency of the universe. The interest of classicism refers only to the eternal and unchanging – in every phenomenon, it seeks to recognize only essential, typical features, discarding random individual characteristics. The aesthetics of classicism attaches great importance to the social and educational function of art. Many of the rules and canons of this direction are taken from ancient art.


The Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa” and Poussin’s “Discovery of Achilles on Skyros” are the best examples of the Baroque and Classicism. These works (as well as the aforementioned styles) can be analyzed separately, as they have both similarities and differences.

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Baroque architecture, like other artworks, began in Rome. One of the pioneers of this magnificent style is called Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, an artist, a sculptor and, of course, an architect. Bernini’s talent, as well as the one of great masters of the Renaissance, was multifaceted. However, unlike them, he could use it extensively in each artwork.

The Baroque is truly the first synthetic style of architecture. Architectural ensembles created based on the canons of this direction are not a repository for interiors and people, but they are theaters, where the content is as important as the external environment. Plastic facades and complex curvilinear building plans cannot exist without the surrounding space, with which they do not compete, but try to blend in harmony without any pretentious and dynamic interiors, often not decorating, but rather creating spatial illusions.

The Baroque of Bernini is characterized by peculiar contrast, tension, dynamic images, affectation, as well as the pursuit of greatness, splendor and tension of the reality and illusion to merge arts (city palace and park ensembles, opera, iconic music, and oratorio). At the same time, the tendency to the autonomy of individual genres is typical of his artworks. Ideological foundations of the Bernini’s style were developed as a result of shocks, which became the Copernican theory in the sixteenth century and in the Reformation period.

Bernini adhered to spatial scale, unity, and the fluidity of complex and usually curved shapes. He often used massive colonnades, an abundance of sculptures on facades and interiors, volutes, a large number of rusticated columns, and pilasters. The dome acquired complex forms, often stacked like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Characteristic details of the Baroque are telamon, caryatid and mascaron.

Therefore, Bernini’s works have all features of the Baroque style: spatial scale, flow lines, drama, emotions, feelings and swiftness. His sculptures became a model for many Baroque sculptors of Italy and other countries.

Returning to the subject of colors, it must be said, that if classical artists favored gentle clearly highlighted tones, the tendency of monochrome would win. In classicism, the canvas is something like a scene for an artist-director. Using contrasting colors, masters attracted attention of “spectators”, causing them to die away with delight.

The most prominent place in classicism was taken by Nicolas Poussin with his paintings mainly on the theme of antiquity and mythology. He gave unsurpassed examples of geometrically precise composition and a thoughtful ratio of color groups.

The ancient theme prevailed in Poussin’s paintings. He represented Ancient Greece as a perfectly beautiful world, inhabited with wise and perfect men. Even in dramatic episodes of ancient history, he tried to see the triumph of love and the supreme of justice. A set of rules that artists should observe strictly were formed in classicism art. These norms were based on the painting tradition of Poussin.

Comparing the two styles (as well as works by Bernini and Poussin), the following can be said. In the art and architecture of the eighteenth century, the Baroque and Classicism dominated as two basic styles. They did not coexist accidentally so long in the same epoch. They have close relationships, although there are a lot of inherent features of each style, as well as of Bernini’s and Poussin’s works.


To conclude, it must be said that the ‘Ecstasy of St. Teresa” is characterized by the exuberance and dynamism of different forms. The “Discovery of Achilles on Skyros” by Poussin in turn requires the harmony and balance of all details. Bernini focuses on luxury, splendor, brilliance, flatulence, and wealth finishes. Poussin in the “Discovery of Achilles on Skyros” appreciates the restraint and simplicity of lines and uses decor very carefully. In his Baroque artwork “Ecstasy of St. Teresa”, Bernini used spatial illusions, distorting proportions and scale, while the Classicism of Poussin is based on the harmony of the latter following ancient traditions.

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