The period in art known as "Baroque" is actually one that began in Rome in the early 1600s, and then spread throughout Europe, transforming from area to area. Generally it is exemplified by grandeur and high drama, and is a direct connection between art and religion.
Both the church and the aristocracy played a role in the development of the style. The Council of Trent, held from 1545 to 1563, determined that all areas of the arts should work to clearly and simply express or explain religious themes and stories. This demand for accessible and populist art is what many historians believe led to the development of the Baroque style within the next generation.
The aristocracy of the age embraced Baroque's power and grandeur as an easy way of communicating wealth, authority and importance. This is especially true because the Baroque did not just apply to painting and sculpture, but to architecture, music, decoration and even the garden. Fundamentally, the aristocracy could build an entire world of sensuous richness, drama and grandeur around themselves.
Baroque artists used tremendous amounts of detail, brilliant color and aimed at creating a sense of wonder in the viewer. The artists most immediately associated with the period are Caravaggio, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea Pozzo, and Annibale Carraci.
As the style spread throughout Europe it was modified to accommodate the fashion and traditions of the region. Spain made the movement significantly more extravagant, while England barely felt the style at all. The French saw the Baroque more in the aristocracy than in the church, due mostly to Louis XIV's understanding of the expressive force of the style, where it was employed successfully throughout the palace and grounds at Versailles. The Baroque would frequently become undistinguishable from the Rococo style that was developing immediately in its wake.