Before we know anything about Counter Reformation and the art related to it, we need to find out what Reformation and Counter-Reformation was in the first place. The two movements are very closely related to each other; the latter is the direct cause of the former. The Reformation or the Protestant Reformation started with criticism of some incidences of corruption by some members of the clergy. This criticism turned into a large movement, and the Christian faith was split into two factions, i.e., Catholic and Protestant. There are several points where the differentiation line can be drawn even today, and in the days of the Reformation the difference was drastic. Fundamentally, Catholics followed the Holy Church and the teachings of the Pope, whereas the Protestants followed the Holy Bible. In the years of the 14th century, there were several reforms that changed some of the churches in central and Northern Europe and Great Britain. The Holy Church of Vatican launched a series of Counter-Reformation movements to win over the reformed churches. Apart from that, the drawbacks of the Holy Roman Catholic Church were also resolved, and within a short span of a couple of decades, the Catholic church won over several of the reformed churches and regions in mainland Europe, though North European regions and Great Britain remained Protestant. Counter-Reformation started with the Council of Trent in 1545, and ended with the 30 Years War in 1648, lasting for more than a century.
A very important meeting that started the movement of Counter-Reformation was the Council of Trent, which was summoned by Pope Paul III. This council functioned from 1545 to 1563, and councilmen met periodically. The first objective of the council was to rectify the drawbacks of the church and then start the actual counter-movement. Apart from literature, one very good form of getting people's attention was the visual arts.
Artworks painted in this time were largely religious, and depicted Jesus Christ and Mother Mary. Often, this period is credited to be a time where Mannerism was at its finest. In the times following the early 16th century, several artists painted incidents from the life of Jesus. The Church and the Inquisition, which was set up by the Church, made a detailed examination of the paintings. Mannerism in that period involved depiction of Christ and Mother Mary, plus an added sense of spirituality and an in-depth expression of Holy figures in the painting. The Virgin and Child Adored by Angels and the The Elevation of the Cross, are two paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, which are known for their energy and highly realistic depiction of Biblical events. The Massacre of the Innocents is a famous painting by Peter Paul Rubens, depicting an incident from the Gospel of Matthew. El Greco's works, such as The Assumption of the Virgin and The Disrobing of Christ are two very fascinating and interesting works of the time. The adoration of the Magi and the crowning of the Virgin were two favorite themes of the artists of the time.
The Holy Roman Catholic church and the Inquisition took measures to prevent and reverse the prevalent themes of paintings. For example, Paolo Veronese was ordered to change The Feast in the House of Levi, a depiction of the Last Supper.
Another dynamic style of painting that originated in this era is the Baroque. It is basically a piece of work that tends to have a depiction of a violent motion in it. Adoration by Rubens shows the scene of Jesus and Mary, and the entire scene is a significant snap shot that captures a certain motion from every angle. Ecstasy of Saint Theresa is a well-known Baroque sculpture in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. There are countless examples of Baroque art in the post-Counter-Reformation period, and several churches that were built afterwards, depict Counter-Reformation style of architecture.