Baroque painting is painting associated with the Baroque cultural movement. The movement is often associated with absolutism, the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic Revival, but the existence of significant Baroque art and architecture in non-absolutist and Protestant states throughout Western Europe underlines its widespread popularity.
Baroque painting encompasses a wide range of styles, with most important and significant paintings dating from around 1600, extending throughout the 17th century and into the early 18th century. In its most typical manifestations, Baroque art is characterised by great drama, rich, deep colours and intense effects of light and shadow, but the classicism of French Baroque painters such as Poussin and Dutch genre painters such as Vermeer is also subsumed under this term, at least in English. In contrast to Renaissance art, which usually showed the moment before an event, Baroque artists chose the most dramatic point, the moment when the action was taking place: Michelangelo, working in the High Renaissance, shows his David calmly and serenely before he fights Goliath; Bernini's Baroque David is caught at the moment when he hurls the stone at the giant. Baroque art was meant to evoke emotion and passion rather than the calm rationality that had been valued in the Renaissance.
Important painters of the Baroque period in Italy are the brothers Agostino and Annibale Carracci, Michelangelo da Caravaggio, Guido Reni and Giovanni Tiepolo, in Spain Bartolomé Murillo and Diego Velázquez, in France Nicolas Poussin, Claude Vignon and Claude Lorrain, in Germany Adam Elsheimer, Cosmas Damian Asam, Johannes Zick and his son Januarius, Joseph Wannenmacher, in Tyrol Stephan Kessler and in the Netherlands Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Caravaggio is an heir to the humanist painting of the High Renaissance. His realistic depiction of the human figure, painted directly from life and dramatically lit against a dark background, shocked his contemporaries and opened a new chapter in the history of painting. In Baroque painting, scenes are often dramatised with chiaroscuro lighting effects; this can be seen in works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Le Nain and La Tour. The Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck developed a graceful but imposing style of portraiture that was particularly influential in England.
The prosperity of 17th century Holland led to an enormous production of art by a large number of painters, most of whom were highly specialised and painted only genre scenes, landscapes, still lifes, portraits or history paintings. Technical standards were very high and Dutch Golden Age painting created a new repertoire of subjects that was very influential until the arrival of modernism.