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g Art Appreciation Site

BellaOnline's Art Appreciation Editor

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Caravaggio - Sinner or Artist Extraordinaire?


There was an exhibition at the National Gallery in England, titled, "Caravaggio: The Final Years." This blockbuster show is an example of conflicting theologies between the artist himself and his subject matter. Caravaggio was considered a radical of his time (the Baroque era) and was said to have killed a man. How is it possible for someone who commits mortal sin to paint extraordinary religious art? The answer is purely financial. Because the paying customers of his time wanted religious art, he was able to deliver what they wanted with the utmost sensitivity perhaps because of his questionable lifestyle. For example, Caravaggio’s famous "Supper at Emmaus" takes place in a tavern, a familiar haunt with the artist.

What I can say about Caravaggio is that he is a brilliant artist. I saw the painting, "The Taking of Christ," at Boston University in 1999. He painted it in Rome in 1602, and then it disappeared for almost 400 years, resurfacing again in 1993. It was found in the dining room of the Jesuit Fathers of Dublin. After cleaning and restoring the painting, it was then put on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland. I saw this remarkable painting at the Mc Mullen Museum of Art in Boston and was astounded by the sheer realism and the attention given to detail.

If I try to make a connection between Caravaggio’s tumultuous life and his art, I can only see an interception by God, revealing beauty and truth. How else could it be explained? Ah, perhaps this is one of life’s mysteries about good and evil. Are they really opposites, or one in the same?

I have always wondered about the eccentricities of some artists and their genius. For example,
Did Van Gogh create superior art in spite of or because of his insanity?
To what degree did Jackson Pollack’s alcoholism influence his art?
These questions I would like to examine in another article.
For now, I will smile as I enjoy the works by great artists such as Caravaggio.

If you would like to learn more about the life of Caravaggio, the following book, "M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio" is an amazing biography on this great artist. Available here from Amazon.com.