Classicism

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The Church, which had ordered its artists to paint in a style that the masses could easily read, ended up demanding a more sophisticated style to decorate its own princely halls. At the same time the autocratic European powers and the absolutist Italian courts made similar demands. As a result some artists began to produce work in a style that was a long way from the gruesomeness of the Caravaggist images. Their palettes became softer. Although they still resorted to contrasts of light, these were less accentuated and created diaphanous spaces in which the figures moved comfortably, far removed from the gloomy oppression of tenebrism. Annibale Carracci created the new trend in clear opposition to the Caravaggesque style. His brother and their cousin worked with him and they looked to recover the essence of Michelangelo, Raphael and classical statuary with their images. They often worked in fresco, adapting their compositions to the magnificent baroque structures of the 17th century. This use of fresco led them, even in their [oil#MATERIALES#1] paintings, to employ illusionistic effects that aimed to transcend the architectural frame or the frame of the painting. Thus they faked open spaces with painted architectural frames that look real and with figures that move among the vegetation or the painted columns. Frescos painted on ceilings or high walls required the depiction of the figures as seen from below in order to create the sensation that they were actually floating above the spectators' heads. Consequently they created impressive foreshortenings taken from a sotto in sú perspective. Light is distributed uniformly in a balanced frieze-like composition in the manner of classical reliefs. Movement is created by lines of opposed forces or figures in complementary postures but moving in different directions as can be seen in Guido Reni's [Atalanta and Hippomenes#CUADROS#96]. In classicism there is also faithfulness to nature, as in naturalism. The difference lies in that in classicism it is a purified fidelity of the ordinary through the painter's sensibility. To control this restraint that every good artist had to show the Carracci laid the foundations for the academic teaching of the style, explaining subjects worthy of representation, geometric rules that had to be employed, chromatic ranges, adequate attributes for the figures and so on. Inspired by the Roman Academy of San Luca the Carracci founded the Accademia degli Incamminati, in other words the academy of the enlightened ones, those who had seen the light of the new style as if everyone else remained in the shadows of ignorance. Their creative vigour attracted young artists who had exhausted the possibilities of tenebrism and as a result Reni, il Guercino, Il Domenichino and others joined the ranks of the Carracci. Another chapter of classicism is the colony of foreign artists who settled in Rome and Naples. Considered Italian, as their training and artistic output took place in Italy, two French artists stand out especially because of their historical impact. They were Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. Both painted in the idealistic classical style and serve as a link between the Italian Baroque and the French Baroque. Claude Lorrain is considered the creator of the classical landscape, an important achievement without which English Neoclassical landscape painting would not have come about, nor would the heroic landscapes of German Romanticism. Poussin offers the balanced counterpoint between dramatic visions of Catholic martyrology and a perfect treatment of mythology and History.


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