Caravaggio, or Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, was born in 1571. Indeed, he’s the master of light.
His brush and strokes were unique. Caravaggio was able to capture the essence of light.
The life of Caravaggio
He was able to bring a sense of realism through the use of chiaroscuro, playing with light and shadows. Thanks to his talent, he didn’t have any problems in finding work and commissions. In fact, he became one of the most appreciated artists of his time.
Caravaggio also included religion in his art. Through this theme, he could express everyday feelings and scenes. His art evoked emotions, not necessarily in the content. He evoked criticism too. Mainly because he tried breaking with painting tradition. Critics of his era believed Caravaggio’s art was too realistic. That wasn’t the purpose of art, people said.
Still, Caravaggio didn’t give on his style and technique.
The use of light and darkness
However, it is impossible to deny the dark side of his paintings. He introduced graphic and violent images, as well as the everlasting dilemma of real art versus vulgarity. The realistic elements created controversy in the Church. But this was literally, socially, and culturally new. The artist often crossed the line between religious figures and dark elements, like angelic virgins and prostitutes.
Caravaggio’s use of light and shadow indicates internal conflict. And a strong desire to break the customs of the past. He changed colors and moods that in his mind were too positive and more like fairy tales. The artist wanted to show real suffering, the dirt on the streets, and the real fear in the eyes of his characters. Even architects adopted this style, and all of that led to the beginning of the Baroque movement.
There is no doubt that all of his art was influenced by his bizarre lifestyle. Caravaggio was far from being a saint; he was often involved in fights and criminal behavior, to the point that he was charged with homicide for killing a young man in 1606. He avoided jail, escaping to Naples where he found a safe haven and freedom to continuing producing his art. Caravaggio seems also to have wounded an officer earlier in his life, while still in Milan.
After Naples, he tried his fortune internationally on the island of Malta and eventually died at the young age of 40 in a still-mysterious manner. His death, mysterious as it was, is the least important part of Caravaggio’s life; his art tells us everything we need to know.
If you are curious about Italian artists, check out our intro on Umberto Boccioni.