Rubens, Caravaggio, Velázquez, Rembrandt and Poussin – these are the names of the 5 greatest Baroque painters of the 16th and 17th centuries, a period during which rich colors and a wide range of individualistic styles began to characterize art.
Caravaggio – Bacchus
Few people are aware that Michelangelo Caravaggio, one of the most influential Baroque painters, was known during his life for his violent behavior. The Italian artist, who was a leading reformer of European art in the 16th and 17th centuries, allegedly committed crimes more than once in his life. At the age of 38, he died under mysterious circumstances in Porto Ercole in Tuscany.
“Bacchus” was painted during Caravaggio’s 1595 sojourn with his first patron, Cardinal del Monte, and represents Caravaggio’s interpretation of naturalism.
Rembrandt – Self-Portrait with Two Circles
Rembrandt van Rijn, the eminent Dutch painter, was born in 1606 in what is now Holland, and even though he never went abroad his pieces were inspired by foreign influences. When most people think of the most significant Baroque artists and the Dutch Golden Age, Rembrandt almost universally comes to mind. This is because his work was truly significant. Auguste Rodin once famously stated, “Compare me with Rembrandt? What sacrilege! With Rembrandt, the colossus of Art! We should prostrate ourselves before Rembrandt and never compare anyone with him!”
“Self Portrait with Two Circles” is a mystic piece, painted in Rembrandt’s later years of life and one of his many self-portraits.
Peter Paul Rubens – The Garden of Love
Peter Paul Rubens, another one of the 5 greatest Baroque painters, known for being “the prince of painters and the painter of princes,” was a flamboyant Flemish grand master of art born in 1577. His work was highly influenced by historical and mythological ideals, and his unique painting style came to be associated with the Counter-Reformation.
“The Garden of Love” was a symbol of love for his second wife, the young and beautiful Helena Fourment. The painting depicts a scene of flirtation in a utopian garden filled with Renaissance elements.
Diego Velázquez – La Venus del Espejo, “The Rokeby Venus”
One of the 5 greatest Baroque painters mentioned in my article is Diego Velázquez, representing the Spanish Golden Age. He was also one of the best portraitists of his times. Velázquez was familiar with Italian art; therefore, his inspirations initially came from artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo. Later during his life, his work inspired the realists and impressionists.
“The Rokeby Venus” was strongly criticized by the Catholic Church, yet this painting is the only surviving piece by Velázquez that presents nudity.
Nicolas Poussin – Landscape with a Calm
This painter of the classical Baroque époque, who was the founder of the French Classical tradition is often described as the embodying the opposite traits of Caravaggio, and there is some truth to this. His paintings were calm, logical and at the same time imbued with philosophical musings. Poussin’s work had a huge impact on the history of art and inspired many later artists like Pablo Picasso or Paul Cézanne.
“Landscape with a Calm” is an image of silent tranquility. Rather than telling us a story, the painting seeks to awaken our imagination.