radical nature

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Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) (1571–1610, Italy)

Paintings 3

Caravaggio was an Italian painter active in 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 his twenties Caravaggio moved to Rome where there was a demand for paintings to fill the many huge new churches and palazzos being built at the time. It was also a period when the Church was searching for a stylistic alternative to Mannerism in religious art that was tasked to counter the threat of Protestantism. Caravaggio’s innovation was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro which came to be known as tenebrism (the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value).

Famous while he lived, Caravaggio was forgotten almost immediately after his death, and it was only in the 20th century that his importance to the development of Western art was rediscovered. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation heavily under his influence were called the Caravaggisti or Caravagesques, as well as tenebrists or tenebrosi. The 20th-century art historian André Berne-Joffroy claimed: “What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting.”

From “For the mornings your fingers are shaking too hard to call me, or your mother, or anything else” by Elizabeth McNamara

Photography by Chris Hoare, please do not remove caption.