A major new three-part series for BBC Four tells the story of the Baroque age. Written and presented by art critic Waldemar Januszczak and filmed in high definition in many of the key locations of Baroque across Europe, the series explores the impact of the world's first truly global art movement as it travelled from Catholic Rome to Protestant London between 1600 and 1720, before eventually ending up as the house style of the whole of Latin America. The Baroque is habitually presented as an era of brilliant individuals: Caravaggio in Italy, Velazquez in Spain, Rubens in Flanders and Rembrandt in Holland are some of the greatest artists that have ever lived. But a wider truth about the Baroque, often overlooked, is that it was an era of huge artistic achievement across the board – articulating itself through a multitude of art forms and in numerous ways. Although the Baroque can initially be understood as a powerful fight back by the Catholic Church against Protestantism, the style lost many of its religious ambitions as it spread across the world, leaving only the need to be noticed.
Programme one looks at the birth of the movement as it burst onto the scene in Italy. It was here that all of the main characteristics of the Baroque found their earliest form: from the cinematic realism of Caravaggio to the grand illusionism of Padre Pozzo's painted ceiling in San Ignazio; from the bewildering architectural inventions of Borromini to the grand Baroque flourishes of Bernini; and from the light-hearted mythologies of the Carracci to the dark and murderous art of Naples.
In the second episode, Waldemar Januszczak follows Baroque to its dark heart in Spain, focusing on the route of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and featuring star painters Velasquez, Caravaggio and Zurburan. He then carries on through Belgium and Holland to discover such celebrities as Rubens and Vermeer.
Episode Three brings the Baroque home with an exploration of the English Baroque tradition that finds its climax through a tour of London's Hawksmoor churches, and Christopher Wren's iconic St Paul's Cathedral.