A brilliant contribution to the methodology of art criticism, it features black- and-white illustrations of works Principles of Art History By: Heinrich Wölfflin. What are the fundamental differences between classic and baroque art? Is there a pattern underlying the seemingly helter-skelter development. PERIOD DISTINCTIONS. 4 Principles of Art History. HEINRICH WÖLFFLIN. Born of a wealthy family near Zurich in , Heinrich Wölfflin studied art history and.

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It is important to remember, though, that the pairs of categories he proposes are comparative, not absolute. The division into categories is only for the purposes of analysis.

Principles of Art History

The boundaries of each solid element whether human or inanimate are definite and clear; each if is evenly illuminated, and stands out boldly like a piece of sculpture. In contrast, in a painterly painting, the figures are not evenly illuminated but are fused together, seen in a strong light which comes from one direction and reveals some things while it obscures others.

Contours are lost in shadow, swift brush-strokes bind separate parts together rather than isolating them from one another.


Some figures are barely visible. Planar means that the elements of the painting are arranged on a series of planes parallel to the picture plane.

In the Raphael, for example, the first plane is given by the small step in front. The next plane coincides with the front of the platform of the Madonna’s throne, in line with the saint on the right. The saint on the left is in line with the front edge of the next step back, while beyond is heinrichh plane of the rear of the throne.

Principles of Art History

All these planes are parallel. The figures move back from the front plane, starting with the man on the right, who directs our attention towards the woman on the left, and towards Christ, a little further back. The other figures are recessed along diagonals behind.

In the closed form of the Renaissance painting, all the figures are balanced within the frame of the picture. Histogy composition is based on verticals and horizontals that echo the form of the frame and its delimiting function. The saints at the sides close off the picture with strong vertical accents, reinforced by the vertical accent of the throne in the centre.


Horizontal accents are provided by the steps of the throne and the horizontal canopy over the throne. The picture is self-contained.

Heinrich Wölfflin – Wikipedia

The closed form conveys an impression of stability and balance and there is a tendency towards a symmetrical arrangement though this, of course, is not rigid. In the open form of the Baroque painting vigorous diagonals contrast with the verticals and horizontals of the frame.

Diagonal lines not only play on the surface prinicples the picture, but move back into depth. Figures are not simply contained within the frame, but are cut off by it at the sides. There is a feeling of space beyond the edges of the picture. The composition is dynamic rather than static; it suggests movement and is full of momentary effects, as opposed to the tranquil repose of the Renaissance painting.

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