Art History | Heinrich Wölfflin Categories


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This is the painting that needs to be discussed. The Holy Family with Saint Anne and the Young Baptist and His Parents

Discuss the painting whether it fulfills the formal definition of the Baroque as formulated by Wӧlfflin or whether there are some problems applying these categories to the painting.
Discuss Distinctions and differences between Renaissance and Baroque paintings.

Here are the 5 categories. Discuss and focus on each one, and compare it to the painting, whether it applies or it doesn’t.

1.- The development from the linear to the painterly:
Linear : all the figures and all the significant forms within and surrounding the figures are clearly outlined. The boundaries of each solid element (whether human or inanimate) are definite and clear guide for the eye
Painterly: Contours are lost in shadow, swift brush-strokes bind separate parts together rather than isolating them from one another. Some figures are barely visible.

2.- The development from planarity to recession.
Planar: baroque art emphasizes the overlap of parts arranged one behind the other.
Recession: figures placed at an angle to the picture plane and receding into depth.The figures move back from the front plane.

3.- The development from closed to open form.
In the closed form of the Renaissance painting, all the figures are balanced within the frame of the picture. verticals and horizontals. stability and balance. tendency towards a symmetrical arrangement.
In the open form of the Baroque painting vigorous diagonals contrast with the verticals and horizontals of the frame. Diagonal lines not only play on the surface of the picture, but move back into depth. Figures are not simply contained within the frame, but are cut off by it at the sides. There is a feeling of space beyond the edges of the picture. The composition is dynamic rather than static; it suggests movement and is full of momentary effects, as opposed to the tranquil repose of the Renaissance painting.

4.- The development from multiplicity to unity.
Renaissance painting is made up of distinct parts (multiplicity), each one sculpturally rounded in its own right, each one clearly filled with its own single local colour, while the unity of the Baroque picture is much more thoroughgoing, largely achieved by means of the strong, directed light.

5.- Absolute and relative clarity of the object
Absolute clarity: things as they are,
Relative clarity is the result of representing things as they look, seen as a whole.

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