Unveiling Caravaggio: Rebellious Artist, Brutal Light, and the Birth of Modern Painting

Although the exhibition is named after Caravaggio, you have to be patient all the way and carefully read more than fifty wonderful oil paintings including the Baroque master Bernini before you can reach the last hall, which is as scarlet as blood. Caravaggio is waiting there, waiting to give you a sudden blow to the heart!

It was a very typical Caravaggio blow, brutal, direct, and inexplicable. This dangerous and charming guy, when not holding a paintbrush, was an outlaw who swaggered around the city with a sword in his waist. He was notorious and would get into fights at any time. In the security records of the 17th century that can be found, there are several Pages filled with records of his interrogation, his later life-and-death lawsuit, and his final years in which he had to hide and live in exile to evade justice. Painting is not only a means for him to make a living, but also a way for him to buy his life. At that time, Hipione Borghese, the nephew of the Pope, was an avid art lover and was also fascinated by Caravaggio’s works. Caravaggio often gave paintings as gifts to try to gain the patronage of dignitaries, including the Pope and the Cardinal. The bishop is the person who holds the power of pardon and whom he needs to win over.

In 1610, the last summer before his death, Caravaggio sailed north to receive a pardon. His powerful Roman friends secured this opportunity for him. On this trip he brought three paintings as gifts to the cardinal. Those were also his last three paintings. Soon after, he died of fever at the age of 39.

What is so good about Caravaggio’s paintings? When six precious original paintings are hung in the same exhibition hall, his characteristics become readily apparent: he is good at depicting dazzling light, and all the light he paints is hidden in darkness.

“Without Caravaggio, there would be no Ribera, Vermeer, La Tour and Rembrandt. Without him, Delacroix, Courbet and Manet would be completely different.” Caravaggio Overshadowed for hundreds of years after his death, he was soon recognized and identified again by modernists: Frankly speaking, Caravaggio’s work marked the beginning of modern painting.

In Caravaggio’s era, Mannerism was the mainstream in the painting world. Gorgeous and highly pretentious religious paintings and aristocratic paintings were deeply loved by custom-made employers. However, Caravaggio’s painting style was completely different. It is said that he painted Extremely fast, never making a draft, just holding the handle of the brush to outline the traces on the canvas and starting painting, and insisting on sketching from life. Most of the plump and voluptuous teenagers in his paintings were painters who followed him, were his models, and were also his homosexuals. And when he painted female characters such as the Virgin, he was willing to find popular courtesans at the time as models. He once accepted a commission to paint a religious work called “The Death of the Virgin”. This work was eventually rejected by the monastery. Caravaggio used a famous prostitute as the model of the Madonna. In the painting, the Madonna is naked. Legs, and what Caravaggio painted was not the Assumption of the Virgin, but the Virgin dying like a mortal woman… This is neither doctrinal nor appropriate.

Caravaggio probably didn’t care about the rejection. In fact, there were many people who were willing to take over. As soon as “Death of the Virgin” was taken out of the church, it was immediately bought by the Duke of Mantua. He was advised to buy this work quickly. , it was Rubens. Caravaggio’s treatment of light profoundly influenced Rubens. He understood Caravaggio’s artistic value better than the church. This painting was later acquired by King Charles I of England, and in 1671 it was collected by the French royal family.

In the exhibition hall of Art Museum, two oil paintings of John the Baptist prove Caravaggio’s indifference to doctrine. In religious paintings, the iconic features of John the Baptist should be the bowl and the staff with the cross, but Caravaggio eliminated these red tapes, and the innocent lamb that often appeared next to John was replaced by a majestic ram. The saints in his paintings are as simple as mortals, showing their naked bodies. It seems that he prefers to depict the earthly world rather than the divine. He also didn’t like to let his characters wear gorgeous clothes, which would distract the viewer’s direct attention to the characters’ bodies. He revolutionary broke away from the traditions of the time and conveyed new spiritual energy.

As a desperado, Caravaggio’s painting compositions are terrifying and bold. He is like a stage director, setting up a horse-catching drama. The dark areas are extremely dark and the light areas are extremely bright. Many key information on the picture are hidden in the darkness. , and an astonishing chasing light directly shines on the part of the picture that he most wants to highlight. This extreme contrast and collision of visual effects directly became the originator of later drama and stage design. It can be said that Caravaggio was the person who directly changed the history of art.

Although the exhibition poster hyped “Boy with Fruit Basket”, it was another Caravaggio work that really lit up the exhibition hall: “Crown of Thorns.” In the picture, the Roman soldiers were doing everything possible to humiliate Jesus. They wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They forced him to put on a purple cloak and pinched a reed as a scepter. Blood dripped from Jesus’ forehead. Come down. The torturers held Jesus’ body tightly, digging their fingers into his flesh, while other torture soldiers pulled at his hair and ropes. Jesus’ naked body is the highlight of the picture, but his eyes are completely in shadow. You can’t see his eyes clearly, but you can feel his sadness. That kind of sadness does not just come from the pain of one’s own humiliation, but another kind of tragic and submissive to a greater fate.

This painting was completed in the last few years of Caravaggio’s life. His wandering life may have made him aware of his tragic fate. In many paintings, he painted severed heads, using himself as the model. Whether Salomé or Judith, they were carrying bloody heads in their hands, both of which belonged to Caravaggio. There was still a rebellious look on their faces, full of energy, and some were howling and fine. There’s even a hint of mockery.

You cannot turn your head in front of such a work, and have no choice but to let this violent person ravage your vision and heart again and again.

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