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Baroque in the Netherlands and Flanders

Baroque in the Netherlands and Flanders

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will provide an introduction to the Baroque in the Netherlands and Flanders.

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Tutorial

An overview of the Baroque in the Netherlands and Flanders.

Video Transcription

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Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about the Baroque in the Netherlands and Flanders. As you're watching video, feel you're free to pause, move forward or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe Peter Paul Rubens' style and how it differs from the Renaissance style, and identify examples of Rubens' work.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. The first key term is Rubenesque, referring to the figures portrayed by the painter Rubens, usually depicting plump or full-figured women.

Foreshortening, the method in drawing where represented objects are reduced in size and are not parallel to the picture plane, in order to convey an illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.

Allegory, a symbolic narrative, a representation of an abstract or spiritual meeting through materials forms.

Dynamism, the illusion of movement in a composition.

A few more key terms here. Picture Plane, the invisible plane that corresponds to the surface of the painting. The picture plane is like a window opening out onto another world.

And Painterly, a style of painting, such as impressionism, that emphasizes the brush stroke and action of applying paint to surface.

The Big Idea for today is that Peter Paul Rubens' work differs from that of the Renaissance with its dynamism, drama, and lack of linear perspective.

We'll be looking at the time period from 1610 to 1638.

And this time, we're in the Netherlands and Flanders in northern Europe. Here's the Netherlands. Here's Flanders, with Antwerp.

Now it's important to remember that the low countries of the Netherlands and Flanders were under Spanish control for some time during this period. Eventually, the Netherlands eventually broke free and established the Protestant Dutch Republic, while Flanders remained Catholic and under Spanish control. The artist Peter Paul Rubens, who we're discussing today, while Catholic, definitely would have felt the Protestant influence that existed at that time.

Peter Paul Rubens was born in modern-day Germany, but worked predominantly in Antwerp in modern-day Belgium, or Flanders. He was a successful artist, art collector and diplomat, as well as instructor of his own art studio, having trained many artists, including the famous Anthony van Dyck. His style is defined by his dramatic use of form, construction along a diagonal, foreshortening, and his interest in classical sculpture, which was influenced by a trip to Italy, something that many northern artists did in their lifetimes.

Now the use of allegory, as well as a particular depiction of the female body are also hallmarks of his style. And we'll talk about that particular depiction in just a moment.

First we're going to start with Rubens'-- it's hard to say-- "Elevation of the Cross". Now it's the central panel of a three-paneled triptych from Antwerp Cathedral. And it's a depiction of Christ in physical anguish being lifted upwards, already attached to the cross. The influence of Italian sculpture and understanding of anatomy is apparent in the muscular figure straining to pull the heavy cross upwards. And that feeling of effort is wonderfully portrayed. It's almost palpable.

Two figures in the lower right are pulling on ropes attached to the cross and struggle with the weight, as another muscular figure, the bald man in the center, pulls the cross upwards from underneath next to an image of an armored man pushing the cross forward and across from a man in red who pulls on the actual body of Christ in an effort to raise him up. Now the entire composition takes place along a diagonal, which creates the sensation of movement and adds to the visual dynamism of the painting.

Now the arrival of Marie de Medici is an interesting contrast between the composure of the widowed queen of France, who you can see there, and the excited dynamism of the mythical sea figures, who rejoice at her safe arrival. The spectacular nature of the Baroque was favored by the aristocracy, and Marie commissioned this painting as a tribute to her life and career. She's shown debarking her ship in France from Italy, betrothed to Henry IV, amidst the pomp and circumstance of her arrival. The three nude women are notable at the bottom, in particular, for their full figured and fleshy appearance, which is a trademark feature of Rubens and a physical trait coined as Rubenesque, because of its close association with the painter. You may have actually used that term before and not even know where it came from. Well, here's where it came from.

Now Rubens' painting, "The Allegory of the Outbreak of War", provides an excellent Baroque example of painting which we can compare and contrast with one of the quintessential examples of Renaissance paintings, that of "The School of Athens" by Raphael, which I'll show you in just a moment. I'll give you some information on this first.

We'll start with Raphael's painting, "The School of Athens". And his painting is clearly organized. It's parallel to the picture plane, within a rational space, created with linear perspective. It's considered one of the perfect-- best examples of the Renaissance style. The figures aren't moving that much. Although Aristotle and Plato are moving forward and there's some implied movement or motion within the individual groups, it doesn't really appear that much is going to change in the next few moments.

Now contrast this with Rubens' "Allegory of War", depicting rapid movement and change. We're seeing a mere snapshot of things as they're happening, a rush of people along a diagonal, out of the painting and into the viewer's space. If this was actually happening, the viewer would need to stand clear, as it's implied they are coming out of the picture plane itself. The lack of linear perspective and clearly defined space and the use of foreshortening to define the space instead help to enhance the sensation of movement, chaos and panic.

Now where Renaissance artists worked to hide the signs of their painting, Rubens makes them a part of the painting, in a painterly style that features less distinct edges and more visible brush strokes. Not it's an example of Rubens' defining style, featuring dynamism, drama, and lack of linear perspective, contrasting with the Renaissance style of composure, stability, and application of rational scientific principles, like linear perspective.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again and see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms, describe Peter Paul Rubens' style and how it differs from the Renaissance style, and identify examples of Rubens' work?

And once again, the big idea for today was that Peter Paul Rubens' work differs from that of the Renaissance, with its dynamism, drama, and lack of linear perspective.

That's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Baroque in the Netherlands and Flanders"

Key Terms

Rubenesque

Referring to the figures portrayed by painter Rubens, usually depicting plump or full figured women.

Foreshortening

The method in drawing where represented objects are reduced in size and are not parallel to the picture plane in order to convey an illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.

Allegory

A symbolic narrative; a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through material forms.

Dynamism

The illusion of movement in a composition.

Picture Plane

The invisible plane that corresponds to the surface of the painting, the picture plane is like a window opening out onto another world.

Painterly

A style of painting (such as impressionism) that emphasizes the brushstroke and action of applying paint to surface.

Citations

Image of Rubens PD-1923 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rubens_Self-portrait_1623.jpg; Image of School of Athens Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sanzio_01.jpg; Image of Flanders Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flanders_in_Belgium_and_the_European_Union.svg; Image of Netherlands Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EU-Netherlands.svg; Elevation of the Cross; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Peter_Paul_Rubens_068.jpg Arrival of Marie de Medici at Marseilles; Creative Commons: http://www.studydroid.com/index.php?page=viewPack&packId=159019 Allegory of the Oubreak of War; Public Domain: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Los_horrores_de_la_guerra.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Rubenesque

    Referring to the figures portrayed by painter Rubens, usually depicting plump or full figured women.

  • Foreshortening

    The method in drawing where represented objects are reduced in size and are not parallel to the picture plane in order to convey an illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.

  • Allegory

    A symbolic narrative; a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through material forms.

  • Dynamism

    The illusion of movement in a composition.

  • Picture Plane

    The invisible plane that corresponds to the surface of the painting, the picture plane is like a window opening out onto another world.

  • Painterly

    A style of painting (such as impressionism) that emphasizes the brushstroke and action of applying paint to surface.