Art on This Day
An Italian artist Caravaggio, by name of Michelangelo Merisi was born on this day, 29 September in 1571. He was a leading painter of the late 16th and early 17th centuries who became famous for the intense and unsettling realism of his large-scale religious works.
Caravaggio painted the stories of the Bible as visceral and often bloody dramas. He staged the events of the distant sacred past as if they were taking place in the present day, often working from live models whom he depicted in starkly modern dress. Caravaggio’s work shaped that of many later artists, ranging from Rembrandt in Holland and Diego Velázquez in Spain to Théodore Géricault in France. His dramatic sense of staging and innovative treatment of light and shade have also directly inspired many leading figures in the medium of cinema, including Pier Paolo Pasolini and Martin Scorsese.
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. Despite this, his influence on the new Baroque style that eventually emerged from the ruins of Mannerism was profound. 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 (“shadowists”). The 20th-century art historian André Berne-Joffroy claimed: “What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting.”
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