‘Riotous Baroque’ does not deal with the illustrative intermingling of motifs, topics or formal analogies, but sets out to explore an approach that, with artistically sensualist intelligence, at once proclaims proximity to life as a conception of vital exuberance and laments its loss; and that links it to questions of what constitutes art itself.
The Baroque is associated with dynamism, sensuality, extravagance and theatricality, with a move away from the quiet solemnity of classical forms; but also with an age of instability and the breakdown of established orders. It has been variously identified as a ‘culture of flows and interfaces’ (Christine Buci-Glucksmann), and the beginning of our modern age (Erwin Panofsky). The exhibition also reminds us that the art of the Baroque has only enjoyed universal recognition since the 1930s and 1940s, thanks – as so often – to art historians who, armed with a certain proximity to the art of their era, dared to look into the past. It was Erwin Panofsky who saw the Baroque as founded in ‘the victory of subjectivism, which aims to express suffering and humour in equal measure.’