Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio born on 29 September 1571 was an Italian painter, whose work took him to Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily between 1592 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on Baroque painting.
In Milan Caravaggio was trained under the watchful eye of artist Simone Peterzano. Caravaggio moved to Rome, in his twenties as there was a huge demand for paintings in the new churches and palazzos. His innovation was a fundamental naturalism that linked close physical observation with a theatrical use of chiaroscuro which came to be known as tenebrism (the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value).
Caravaggio was never short of commissions after the successful painting of the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and Calling of Saint Matthew in Rome in 1600. Artists from across Europe fled to Rome to view his work. However, he did not handle his career to his advantage and was jailed several times for vandalism, and there was a death sentence on his head by the Pope after he killed a man unintentionally on May 29 1606. An early published notice on him, dating from 1604, which describes his lifestyle three years previously, states that “after a fortnight’s work he will swagger about for a month or two with a sword at his side and a servant following him, from one ball-court to the next, ever ready to engage in a fight or an argument, to that it is most awkward to get along with him.”
National Gallery display
Combining extraordinary work by Carvaggio and the Italian, French, Flemish, Dutch and Spanish artists he inspired, ‘Beyond Caravaggio’ explores the international artistic phenomenon known as Caravaggism.
This exhibition is a collaboration between the National Gallery, London, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the National Galleries of Scotland. It brings together over 40 paintings showing ways in which other artists adopted Caravaggio’s work and developed them to become masters in their own right.
I visited the Caravaggio exhibition and viewed the very successful painting of The Taking of Christ, commissioned in 1602, other works of the Caravaggisti is the Boy Bitten by a Lizard 1594-95 and Boy Peeling Fruit c1592. There were many other masterpieces from Caravaggio hanging on the walls, which were inspirational.
The first few years of his life were tough and he specialised in still life of fruits and flower, and later, half -length figures (such as ‘The Boy bitten by a Lizard’) which he sold on the street.
Caravaggio was very spontaneous and his paintings had minimal preparation, he would often use ordinary people as models to pose for his work. In such painting ‘Supper at Emmaus’ he makes his paintings appear to be an extension of real space, deliberately making the viewers feel as if they are taking part in the scene.
In 1608 and 1609 between Malta and Naples, Caravaggio was involved in several other brawls and at the age of 38 he died under strange circumstances in Porto Ercole in Tuscany, reportedly from a fever while on his way to Rome to receive a pardon. Famous while he lived, he was almost forgotten when he died, however in 20th century, Caravaggio’s work was rediscovered. The 20th-century art historian Andre Berne-Joffroy claimed. “What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting.”
It took nearly three hundred years for Caravaggio’s work to be restored and recognised.
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