(ARTH008) Introduction to Baroque Art

painting - La negazione di san Pietro



This course starts on: To Be Confirmed
Early bird course price£135.00:

Tutor: Dr Jeni Fraser
Course Code: ARTH008
Level: Non-accredited, non-credit bearing
Assessments/Exams: None. Throughout the course you will be given ideas and questions to respond to in the online discussion area. Participation in online discussion is encouraged, but not compulsory.
Duration: 10 weeks
Dates: To be confirmed
Estimated Student Study Time: 2 – 5 hours per week are recommended, but time spent is flexible and at your discretion.
Fee: £150.00
Pre-Requisites: No academic qualifications nor experience are required – you will simply need an enthusiasm for this subject.
Delivery: Online Distance Learning
Late Entrants: If this course is not full by the start date then late entrants will be accepted for up to two weeks after the start of the course. As a late entrant you can choose to catch up on the material you have missed or you can skip the missed weeks and concentrate on the material at the point where you join the course, but unfortunately we cannot offer fee reductions or course extensions for late entrants.
Required Reading**: None

**Please note: All courses are subject to sufficient numbers of students registering before they are confirmed as running. Therefore, after booking your place you are advised not to purchase any texts until you have received confirmation that the course is running.

This course was previously taught by Dr Jeni Fraser when it was offered by the University of Exeter*. If you studied it with the University of Exeter* you might not wish to study it again with Learn for Pleasure as although we have revised and updated our courses where necessary, it will likely be substantively the same.


This course will introduce you to the work of major artists from the 17th and 18th centuries.

You will learn how to recognise and ‘read’ Baroque style in painting, sculpture and architecture, while exploring the social, economic and political contexts of its growth from European princely and papal courts to such far-flung places as India and Latin America.

We will examine the materials, techniques and interpretations of subjects that artists used to communicate with their intended audiences, as well as learning about some of the personalities for whom they created such magnificent works.

Syllabus Plan

Week 1: The Birth of the Baroque
Week 2: The Genius of Bernini
Week 3: Rome’s Greatest Painters
Week 4: Italian Baroque Outside of Rome
Week 5: Baroque Architecture
Week 6: European Baroque Part I: England and France
Week 7: European Baroque Part II: Spain and the Netherlands
Week 8: Non-Western Adaptation of the Baroque
Week 9: Gesamtkunstwerk
Week 10: Baroque Legacies

Course Content in Depth

Week One
The Birth of the Baroque

While locating the Baroque within a timeframe of 17th century political, philosophical, aesthetic, and scientific advances throughout Europe, this unit also provides some background information so that the Baroque is seen as a continuum of artistic production – influenced by its precedents, the Renaissance and Mannerism, and the Council of Trent.

Week Two
The Genius of Bernini

Gianlorenzo Bernini flourished under the patronage of Roman cardinals and popes while also challenging contemporary artistic traditions. His sculptural and architectural projects reveal an innovative interpretation of subjects, use of forms, and combination of media. Forging a path for future artists, he played an instrumental role in establishing the dramatic and eloquent vocabulary of the Baroque style.

Week Three
Rome’s Greatest Painters

The Counter-Reformation, despite its rather harsh pronouncements, provided opportunities for the fertile imaginations of artists keen to take advantage of the renewed interest in Christian doctrine. The Church provided one of the best canvases for artists – its buildings! This unit looks at the artists whose visions hovered between the sacred and profane.

Week Four
Italian Baroque Outside of Rome

Framed by debates about what the Baroque ‘should’ look like, this unit considers the works by Florentine, Neapolitan, and Bolognese masters.

Week Five
Baroque Architecture

An overview of the forms (and meanings of) Baroque architecture from Austrian palaces and British cathedrals to St. Peter’s in Rome.

Week Six
European Baroque Part I: England and France

This unit is concerned with paintings and sculpture in these two countries. We’ll look at the work of Antony van Dyck, Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorraine alongside tomb sculpture in Westminster Abbey (among others).

Week Seven
European Baroque Part II: Spain and the Netherlands

The extreme contrasts between (Catholic) Spanish and (Protestant) Netherlandish art of the 17th century is explored. Some of the world’s most famous works are featured here.

Week Eight
Non-Western Adaptation of the Baroque

This unit looks at how the Dutch East India Company was instrumental in exchanges of Western art to its far-flung trading empires.

Week Nine

In this unit, we’ll explore the use of this concept in Baroque art and architecture. ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ was first used by Richard Wagner in Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (1849) to describe his concept of a work of art for the stage, based on the ideal of ancient Greek tragedy, to which all the individual arts would contribute under the direction of a single creative mind in order to express one overriding idea.

Week Ten
Baroque Legacies

Urban planning, landscape gardening, satirical prints, public spectacles, coffee houses, tea equipages, gentlemen’s clubs… the list is almost endless, but we’ll consider all of them as part of this review.

Learning Outcomes

This course will help you to develop:

  • Confidence in discussing Baroque art
  • Your ability to recognise the Baroque style
  • An understanding of the social, economic and political contexts of its development
  • Familiarity with the materials, techniques and interpretations used by Baroque artists
  • Familiarity with some of the personalities and stories behind the patronage of Baroque art