He took the art scene by storm and it’s never quite been the same since. Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s art, like his character, resists comparison.Share
Last month, I had the opportunity to witness twelve pieces Caravaggio left behind. From June 17th to September 11th, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is hosting 58 works by more than 30 artists. Twelve of said pieces are Caravaggio’s original works. The exhibit was five years in the making as it marks the first time any of Caravaggio’s works have been on Canadian soil.
When he started painting, no one else was using light and dark in such forceful juxtaposition (he began with black canvas and worked his way to the peaks of light), nor were other painters of the day using live models (without regard of their questionable moral bearings) nor were others painting the everyday (and somewhat objectionable) scenes that would meet the common 17th century street-wanderer.
What is perhaps the most remarkable about Caravaggio is the seeming schizophrenia in the life and work of the renowned artist. Many, upon contemplating his paintings would probably come away convinced of Caravaggio’s saintly disposition or of his profound devotion to the mysteries of the Christian faith. Then they’d learn about his life. Then disbelief would set in along with the overwhelming inclination to make excuses for this brilliant yet, apparently troubled man.
Caravaggio’s family hails from the small town of Caravaggio (in Lombardy, Italy) though Caravaggio himself was born in Milan. His career began at 13 when he was accepted as an apprentice for Simone Peterzano (a Milanese painter). There, Caravaggio learned about materials and techniques, studied art and performed menial tasks in the workshop.
Then, like all other fledgling young artists of his day, Caravaggio hit the road for Rome. Here, it was an unspoken rule that artists must converge to make a life for themselves. After all, if they were to sustain themselves on the world of art alone, then there was nothing like Church commissions to keep food on the table!
After a few tough years, Caravaggio was noticed by Cardinal Del Monte. The Cardinal was taken with the young artist’s unique techniques. So much so, that the Cardinal had Caravaggio move into his palace and he began to actively promote the young artist’s works. This marked Caravaggio’s entrance into high society. (Read entire article.)