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Monarchy and enlightenment

The monarchs of Europe embraced the most ornate elements of 17th-century art. Rulers invested vast resources on elaborate church facades, stunning, gold-covered chapels and strikingly-realistic painting and sculpture. While in the newly independent Dutch Republic, a market emerged to meet the Protestant tastes of the growing merchant class. By the 18th century, Voltaire, Rousseau and other intellectuals had put forward Enlightenment ideas that would spark an age of revolution and usher in the modern world. Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker of Smarthistory together with leading art historians, and our museum partners have created hundreds of short engaging conversational videos and articles, making Khan Academy one of the most accessible and extensive resources for the study of the history of art.
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Baroque art

Protestants harshly criticized the Catholic "cult of images," and instead created new genres of more modestly scaled art (still life, landscape, etc.). The Catholic Church in turn, ardently embraced the religious power of art. The visual arts, the Church argued, played a key role in guiding the faithful. Religious art had to be clear, persuasive, and powerful. The result, from both the Catholics and Protestants was some of the most convincingly naturalistic art ever made.
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Rococo

It’s hard not to like Rococo art. After all, it’s subjects are often about luxury and pleasure, which makes sense since this style of art and architecture was patronized by extremely wealthy European aristocrats. This tutorial features works of art that were created right up to the brink of the French Revolution when many of the Rococo's patrons lost their heads.
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Neo-Classicism

Jacques Louis David, an active supporter of the French Revolution of 1789, is the star of this tutorial. David served in the revolutionary government, used his art in the service of its cause—and voted to behead King Louis XVI. He captured the patriotism of the revolution’s early phase and later, memorialized its dead heroes. And when the revolution failed and Napoleon came to power, David used his great talents to present a heroic image of the military general-turned emperor. David invents a new style for the democratic values of the Enlightenment—one that is the very opposite of the luxuriousness of the Rococo—and that looks back to Renaissance and to ancient Greek art, hence the name—Neo-Classicism (new classicism).
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Britain & America in the Age of Revolution

It was hard to be an artist in America during the colonial period, and for decades after. There were no real art schools, no grand tradition of painting or sculpture, and no wealthy aristocratic patrons to commission heroic subjects. Americans were practical, and they wanted portraits (a reality that frustrated ambitious American artists). Nevertheless, Americans looked to England for support and inspiration. As you’ll learn in this tutorial, Copley was the greatest American portrait painter of the period, and Peale, who studied with Copley, painted portraits of American heroes such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
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Latin America/New Spain

Art and culture from the European invasion of the Americas to the end of the colonial era with a focus on one of the most remarkable examples of cross cultural influence ever made.
Baroque art
Protestants harshly criticized the Catholic "cult of images," and instead created new genres of more modestly scaled art (still life, landscape, etc.). The Catholic Church in turn, ardently embraced the religious power of art. The visual arts, the Church argued, played a key role in guiding the faithful. Religious art had to be clear, persuasive, and powerful. The result, from both the Catholics and Protestants was some of the most convincingly naturalistic art ever made.
All content in “Baroque art”

A beginner's guide to Baroque art

Get a head start on the historical developments that shape Baroque art in the Catholic Italy, Spain, Flanders, France and in the Protestant north.

Flanders

This tutorial focuses on the art of Peter Paul Rubens, whose work was in high demand by nearly every King, Queen and aristocrat in Catholic Europe (good thing he had a huge workshop!). Rubens was a master of color, dramatic compositions, and movement. Although he was from Northern Europe, he traveled to Italy and absorbed the art of the Renaissance, of classical antiquity, and of Caravaggio. He painted nearly every type of subject—landscapes, portraits, mythology, and history paintings.

Dutch Republic

In the Protestant Dutch Republic of the 17th century there was an enormous demand for art from a wide cross-section of the public. This was a very good thing, since the institution that had been the main patron for art—the Church—was no longer in the business of commissioning art due to the Protestant Reformation. Dutch artists sought out new subjects of interest to their new clientele, scenes of everyday life (genre paintings), landscapes and still-lifes. There was also an enormous market for portraits. One of the greatest artist of this period, Rembrandt, made his name as a portrait painter, but was also a printmaker, and his work also includes moving interpretations of biblical subjects (though from a Protestant perspective).

Spain

The main focus of this tutorial, and a leading artist at this time is the great Diego Velazquez, who spent most of his career as the court painter to the King of Spain painting official portraits. But in the hands of Velazquez, even mundane portraits became masterpieces of brushwork and color. His early work was influenced by the realism of Caravaggio. Get up close to the princess in his later masterpiece, Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor), and you’ll see broad brushstrokes of red, pink, black and white, but step back and they magically resolve to create a perfect illusion of the silk of her dress and the light moving across her face and hair. No other artist, except perhaps Titian and Rubens, revealed so honestly the alchemy of painting—how paint can be turned into reality.

France

In France, the LeNain Brothers painted scenes of every-day life (genre paintings), often depicting peasants. There was a renewal of interest in their art in the mid-Nineteenth Century, when the art critic, Champfluery wrote that the brothers “considered men in tatters more interesting than courtiers in embroidered garments.” At the same time, Poussin created a very different style—one that was highly intellectual and looked back to Renaissance, and ancient Greek and Roman art.