Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610) was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting.
Caravaggio's starkly contrasting shadows and the light flooding his accentuated subjects are extremely innovative, since the illumination seems to come from nowhere, as if it sprouts from the inner self of the artist to maieutically trigger, a torrent of light within the viewer's psyche. This technique helped Caravaggio to achieve a most innovative effect in his religious paintings. THe Counter Reformation developed the powerful methods of practical mysticism, the sacralization of routines and the deification of everyday life. One can see in the religious pairings of Caravaggio one such attempt at enthousiasmos, in the classical Greek sense, of imbuing holy revelation into the vicissitudes of history.
Caravaggio's use of perspective brings the viewer into the action, and chiaroscuro engages the emotions while intensifying the scene's impact through dramatic light and dark contrast. This untraditional, theatrical staging focuses a harsh light from a single source on the subject in the foreground to concentrate the viewer's attention on the power of the event and he subject's response. Because of the shadow background Caravaggio favored, his style was called "il renebroso" (in a "dark manner").
Caravaggio, byname of Michelangelo Merisi, Italian painter whose revolutionary technique of tenebrism, or dramatic, selective illumination of form out of deep shadow, became a hallmark of Baroque painting. Scorning the traditional idealized interpretation of religious subjects, he took his models from the streets and painted them realistically. His three paintings of St Matthew (c. 1597-1602) caused a sensation and were followed by such masterpieces as The Supper at Emmaus (1601-02) and Death of the Virgin (1605-06).
Caravaggio used an early form of photography to create his masterpieces - 200 years before the invention of the camera, a researcher has claimed. [...] It was already known he worked in a "darkroom" and illuminated his models through a hole in the ceiling. But [Roberta Lapucci] believes the image was also projected on a canvas and "fixed". Light-sensitive substances applied to the canvas would have "fixed" the image for around 30 minutes, allowing Caravaggio to paint the image with broad strokes using white lead mixed with chemicals and minerals that were visible in the dark.
evident was the intense realism or naturalism for which Caravaggio is now famous. He preferred to paint his subjects as the eye sees them, with all their natural flaws and defects instead of as idealised creations. This allowed a full display of Caravaggio's virtusoic talents. This shift from accepted standard practice and the classical idealism of Michelangelo was very controversial at the time. Not only was his realism a noteworthy feature of his paintings during this period, he turned away from the lengthy preparations traditional in central Italy at the time. Instead, he preferred the Venetian practice of working in oils directly from the subject - half-length figures and still life.
Of all the great European artists of the past, there is probably none who more obviously appeals to a modern sensibility than Caravaggio. Born on September 29 1571 in Caravaggio outside Milan, he moved at an early age to Rome, where he was quickly taken up by Cardinal del Monte, who recognised his extraordinary talent. In the late 1590s, his paintings were direct, realistic and extremely intense, creating a style of biblical narrative as if the events had happened in the streets of Rome. His work was immediately seen to be totally different in character from the much more high-flown and classical inventions of the Carracci, who were the leading artists of the day.
Arrogant, rebellious and a murderer, Caravaggio's short and tempestuous life matched the drama of his works. Characterised by their dramatic, almost theatrical lighting, Caravaggio's paintings were controversial, popular, and hugely influential on succeeding generations of painters all over Europe.
Caravaggio's works constitute some of the most stunning works in the entire history of Western painting. Observing the evolution of his style from his early works (The Fortune Teller, Bacchus and Narcissus) to his major successes (The Calling of Saint Matthew and Doubting Thomas) to his final paintings (David with the Head of Goliath) is like watching the tumultuous ups and downs of his life.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio transformed painting, offering a new way of seeing the world and his art continues to speak to us directly and forcefully more than four centuries after his death. Only some 70 works by the master still survive, and those are rarely sent on loan by their owners.
Throughout history, very few artists have caused as radical a change in pictorial perceptions as Caravaggio. From the moment his talent was discovered, he swiftly became the most famous painter of his time in Italy, as well as a source of inspiration for hundreds of followers throughout Europe.