The baroque naturalism of Van Dyck and the baroque classicism of Orente compared. We are now in Holy Week. To help our contemplation, here are two different paintings of the Palm Sunday scene – Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem. Both are by 17th century painters from the heyday of the baroque period. The first is by Sir Anthony van Dyck, who was taught by Rubens and works in the baroque naturalism style (other painters in this form would be, for example, Velazquez or Zurburan). The second is by lesser know Spanish artist who was trained by El Greco called Pedro Orente. He painted this is 1620. In comparing the two styles we see many similarities but also a difference. Orente is working in a style called baroque classicism. This style seeks to evoke more a sense of the classical heritage of Western culture and, inspired by Raphael the artist of 100 years before, often look as thought they are staged scenes from a Shakespeare play set in ancient Rome. Stylistically, there is always more colour and the edges are sharper and cleaner – sometimes this can tend to give them a more sterile and less lively feel. In contrast the baroque naturalist style use monochrome and broad focus much more and has a more vigorous, spontaneous feel. My preference is for baroque naturalism. To the modern eye, although once pointed out we can distinguish between the two streams, they still look similar. At the time though, each school thought of itself as very different from the other. Each saw theirs as the more authentic form of sacred art and and would be openly rude and dismissive about the other.
Paintings: Anthony Van Dyck is the small inset above, and right at the bottom. Pedro Orente is immediately below this text.