Teach Me Baroque Art History

I have seven letters after my name, but I often feel as though I’m in desperate need of education.

I can’t look at the news without thinking how much I’d benefit from a good history degree, for instance. More and more when I listen to music I wish I understood the mathematics of tone. And speaking of math, I envy the geniuses who understand our existence in terms of formulas I can’t begin to unravel and I’d give anything to better grasp the code of the universe.

Every moment, it seems, life reminds me how little I know. I study what I can, but no life is long enough to learn everything I wish I understood.

Photography torments me most of all. I know a few things and have learned an immense amount from some of my talented friends, but mostly I’m self-taught. And I’ve always suspected I’d benefit from your basic intro-level course. Photography 101. Composition. Light and shadow. A professional set of eyes looking over my shoulder and pointing out the nuances I’ve missed. That sort of thing.

So I have this little list in my head of courses I want to take someday. And today I added another: History of Baroque Art. Maybe something like this from UDub.

The why is … Okay, occasionally I find something I like, so I investigate. My recent kick has been music of the Baroque, which was inspired by Pachelbel and Vivaldi and my general lack of interest in all the music I normally listen to. One thing led to another and of course I found myself reading about Baroque art.

I’ve seen and admired many of these painters before, but I never had the context of the movement in my head as an organizing principle. But as I explore, things begin making a bit of sense and, most importantly, I feel a kinship.

The work that distinguishes the Baroque period is stylistically complex, even contradictory. In general, however, the desire to evoke emotional states by appealing to the senses, often in dramatic ways, underlies its manifestations. Some of the qualities most frequently associated with the Baroque are grandeur, sensuous richness, drama, vitality, movement, tension, emotional exuberance, and a tendency to blur distinctions between the various arts.

No, this isn’t me exactly, but the drama, the intense shadows and deep colors that typify the masters of the era, it all reminds me of me when I’m interrogating an image.

And the paintings themselves – I don’t have words.

The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599–1600), by Caravaggio

The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599–1600), by Caravaggio

The Garden of Love, by Peter Paul Rubens

The Garden of Love, by Peter Paul Rubens

The Nightwatch, by Rembrandt

The Nightwatch, by Rembrandt

What would I find hidden in my photography if I had space and time to study these artists in detail? My bucket list doesn’t look like most, I suspect.

Here’s my latest. All I can say is that as I composed it and developed it the Baroque masters were on my mind…



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