Sunday, October 6, 2013

Michelangelo Caravaggio

Michelangelo Caravaggio was a very well known painter during his life time. His paintings were a huge influence on painters throughout Europe. I find Caravaggio to be an interesting artist, because of his revolutionary painting technique of shifting from light to dark with little intermediate value. I believe these dramatic shifts stem from the dramatic life he led.

Born as Michelangelo Merisi in 1571 in Milan, Caravaggio is the name of the artist's home town in Northern Italy. Caravaggio was acknowledged early on for his painting talent. By the age of 21, Caravaggio moved to Rome, the art center of the nation. Caravaggio became known for his rebellious character and his temper. Often, his technique was matched with this temper, as he tended to paint head on to the canvas with little preparation, or painting new work over old. In 1606, his temper resulted in murder, resulting in his fleeing Rome. Though very successful, Caravaggio handled his wealth poorly and was jailed several times. By the age of 38 (1610), Caravaggio died of an illness, possibly malaria.

I believe the best art of Caravaggio reveals his dramatic technique of shifting from light to dark. This technique known as Tenebrism is credited to Caravaggio. These dramatic shifts can be seen in the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (1599-1600), the Calling of Saint Matthew (1599-1600), and the Conversion of Saint Paul (1601).

Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (1599-1600) shows the martyrdom of St. Matthew the Evangelist, author of the Gospel of Matthew. This painting reveals the sharp difference between the dark shadows of the painting and the light, pale bodies. The shadows represent form without any drawn structures.

Calling of Saint Matthew (1599-1600) is the companion painting to the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. This painting shows the moment when Jesus Christ inspires Matthew to follow him. Again, the use of shadows and light highlight certain aspects of the painting. For instance, the beam of light illuminating the faces of the men at the table indicate their looking at Christ.

The Conversion of Saint Paul (1601) once again depicts the dramatic technique of Tenebrism. This painting depicts the moment when Jesus speaks to Saul of Tarsus. Again, the painting is buried by intense darkness, whereas the central figures are set apart by the bright light. This bright light illuminates the moment of revelation between Christ and Saul of Tarsus.


Whitfield, Clovis. Cavaggio's Eye. 2011. Paul Holberton: London.

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