Spanish Art and Architecture

Spanish Art and Architecture
  • Spanish artists
  • Prehistoric Art
  • Mozarabic and Romanesque Art
  • Gothic Art
  • Renaissance Art
  • Baroque, Rococo & Neoclassic Art
  • 19th and 20th Century Art

The Baroque, Rococo and Neo Classical Period

The Baroque Period in Spain coincided with what was probable the country’s most glorious epoch. Art from this stage in history, unlike classic art which was based primarily on reason, made a strong play on the senses and on sensibility. In Spain particularly, it marked a great step forward in the affirmation of a decidedly Spanish artistic flavour.

The effects of extreme realism and inward spirituality were clearly shown in religious sculptures by Juan Martínez Montañés, Alonso Cano, and Pedro de Mena and in painting the most eminent artists included Bartolomé Estéban Murillo, Jusepe de Ribera, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Zurbarán. Their work reflects the naturalism of the time, the dramatic light and shade contrasts and their sobriety of colour, a feature that linked them to the tenebrosi (gloomy) palettes of Caravaggio and the Italians.

While the subject matter remained predominantly religious, artist were beginning to explore new areas such as mythological and historical themes and even still life creations.

In architecture, a new style emerged in the Rococo period named after architect José Churriguera. Reflecting the extreme reaction against the heavy somber restraint and severity present during the Renaissance, the Churrigueresque architectural style used extremely rich ornamentation, including extravagant, undulating cornices, spirals, balustrades, stucco shells, and garlands. Examples of this style can be seen in the Transparente in Toledo cathedral and the sacristy of the Cartuja in Granada.

When the rococo period gave way to the neo classical period, Spanish art experienced a certain decline in creativity. The Bourbon rule was against the individualism, embellishment and exuberance of Baroque art and a new tendency developed. In the mid 18th Century the first Spanish academy of art was founded, providing for somewhat sterile academic styles. Francisco Goya was an exception to the rule and created poignant depictions of the brutality and corruption of the time.