Baroque: Art for The Masses


The word “Baroque” literally means “irregular”.  It used to be used as a term to describe pearls that were of a lesser value, so it used to be a negative term. But not anymore. The Baroque era was punctuated by ballsy artists who pushed themselves to newer heights. They wanted to be the best, the most artsy, the best at lines, use colors beautifully. This clashed, I feel, a little bit with the wants of this era. The Catholic Church launched a Counter Reformation to beat back the “heresy’ that was ever present with the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. They promoted art, music, and literature in order to “bring back the moon” as some would say. The Church absolutely hated mannerist styles of art, as we saw with Pope Julius I’s Master of Ceremonies severe distaste for Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment”. You would think, with the Mater of Ceremonies being shown as a literal “ass” that the church learned that messing with artists isn’t the best idea.

Ass for Mass? Get it? 'Cause he's Catholic?

Ass for Mass? Get it? ‘Cause he’s Catholic?

But! I digress

One thing the Catholic Church did that I could personally applaud was that they made music, art, and literature more accessible to the general public. It’s a good marketing technique because the more accessible their religious propaganda was, the more people it would reach, and the more successful their reformation. Their intense monetary contributions to artists and art in general also made it possible for common folk to be able to see and experience art. Then there is the rad Academie Royale De Peinture Et De Sculpture (The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture) which was an art school that opened up that could literally just teach you to paint.

Here is an artist's perspective view of an art school! It's... Artception.

Here is an artist’s perspective view of an art school! It’s… Artception.

So more people were painting, which meant more art to trade and sell. Which meant that the Netherlands got it into their head to rise up and make Amsterdam the damn trade hub of the world. So now you have all of the religious followers seeing art, millions of merchants and common-folk seeing art being traded back and forth, and on top of that you have a school making the dream of being an artist a reality. Art, understandably, quickly because a commonplace and easily accessible, yet still totally fabulous, way of being.

Self  Portrait of a Portrait Genius.

Self Portrait of a Portrait Genius.

I say all of this background to thoroughly introduce to you Rembrandt, a portrait genius of the Baroque era.

Why the lengthy intro, you ask? I wanted to make sure it was perfectly clear just how common art had become by this time. Portraits were no longer for the rich, normal folk were having their portraits done too! Companies were commissioning artists to paint company portraits and banners. It became our modern day equivalent of doing a family photo or a company photo.


Tying it back to Mr. Portrait Extraordinaire himself, Rembrandt revolutionized the way portraits were done with his company portrait entitled “Company of Captain Frans Cocq”, which he did for Captain Frans Cocq. It’s more commonly known as “The Night Watch“. The photo shows an extraordinary amount of movement, which was really not common in portraits. Usually people had to sit and sit and sit until their portrait was done, it was honestly a huge hassle. But Rembrandt took that annoyance away by depicting the company in motion, therefore eliminating the whole sitting factor altogether! The company’s lances are drawn, people are running, there’s a creepy girl in the middle. The gang’s all here! What’s even more impressive is that Rembrandt treated every single face in the portrait as he would have a traditional painting. Each face showed emotion and depicted the personality of the character.


Rembrandt was a man of revolution when it came to portraits. And to art students of 2014, he is still remembered as the epitome of the artist. As Dutch Painter Jozef Israels said of Rembrandt, “True type of artist, free, untrammeled by tradition.”

Oh Hey, Look At All These Cool Links!

Academiie de peinture et de sculpture, . N.p.. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <émie_de_peinture_et_de_sculpture&gt;.

Pioch, N.. N.p.. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <;.

Brown, B. A. N.d. video. YoutubeWeb. 28 Feb 2014. <;.

Robin, Urton. N.p.. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <;.


One thought on “Baroque: Art for The Masses

  1. The connection that you made between Rembrandt and the baroque period at large doesn’t seem very strong to me. I understand that Rembrandt is extraordinary and is a step above some of his contemporaries, but you mentioned little to nothing about what actually influenced his style. A precursory look at styles and influences can be seen in Rembrandt’s wikipedia entry:

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