September 7, 2016

Baroque and Its Children

…a Continuing History of Western Architecture

Architecture of Exuberance: Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Baroque began as decorated Renaissance, to say it simply.  “For example, for the architects of the Renaissance the facade of a church or a palace had been a rectangle, or a series of rectangles each of which had corresponded to a story of the building. For Baroque architects the facade was merely that part of the building that faced outwards, one element of a single entity…“ (1) to be decorated with pilasters and cornices, pilars and curliques totally ignoring what was happening on the inside of the building.

Weis Church, Bavaria, Rococo: C, Bill Lowe Gallery

The Rococo Architectural style was an outgrowth of the Baroque often called Late Baroque.  It was a style, “that originated in Paris in the early 18th century but was soon adopted throughout France and later in other countries, principally Germany and Austria. It is characterized by lightness, elegance, and an exuberant use of curving, natural forms in ornamentation.” (2)  Generous swirls and passionate curlicues adorned every surface regardless of purpose.  

By the late 18th Century, the designs of Italian architect Palladio were reexamined in England and, “spread by the English translation of his I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura, and pattern books such as Vitruvius Brittanicus by Colen Campbell.  This Palladian architecture and continued classical imagery would in turn go on to influence Thomas Jefferson and other early architects of the United States in their search for a new national architecture.”  This new American architecture we now call Federal.(3)

Pierce Nichols House, Federal style.

Beaux Arts, the Louvre.

The Beaux Arts style and Art-Nouveau were occurring about at the same time.  “The Beaux-Arts "style" emanated from France, based on ideas taught at the legendary L'École des Beaux Arts ("The School of Fine Arts") in Paris. The turn into the 20th century was a time of great growth throughout the world. It was a time when architecture was becoming a licensed profession requiring schooling.” (5)  "Historical and eclectic design on a monumental scale, as taught at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in the 19th cent."—Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, Cyril M. Harris, ed., McGraw- Hill, 1975, p. 48.  Showy, ornate, yet formal, it inspired architects of the period to push the envelope into the style now called Art Nouveau.

Artists and architecture wanted to abandon the decorative formality of the period.  They felt strongly that form follows function.  The Arts and Crafts movement influenced the fluidity and freedom of Art Nouveau as did the just rediscovered Japanese Art.

Arts and Crafts.  The Gamble House by Green and Green

 “Casa Batlló”, Passeig de Gràcia, 43, Architect: Antonio Gaudi, 1904


Rococo Architecture:  Late Baroque

History of Architecture. Art Nouveau(4)


  1. Baroque is beautiful but distracting. I guess if you went to a baroque church day after day, you'd eventually be able to ignore it to pray or meditate.

  2. Antonio Gaudi's buildings are so fascinating. Living, breathing works of art.

  3. Baroque can be like too much dessert, overly sweet and cloying. If done right, it can be nice. There are some "wedding cake" houses in Charleston that I like.

  4. I took a short class on art and architecture to be a docent at a museum. I loved learning about these. And Gaudi is amazing. We so enjoyed his work in Barcelona.

  5. The Arts & Crafts buildings are great.

  6. I just read Flood by David Hewson. You would like this book if you like a mystery, Italy and the Renaissance.

  7. Beautiful photos and what gorgeous architecture!

  8. That is so interesting. I loved looking at the photos. We did enjoy seeing Gaudi's work in Spain.


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