Canada is not exactly the natural habitat of Caravaggio. Y’know, the beaver, the elk, fur pelts and lumberjacks. But it is July and he doesn’t have to compete with men on blades stopping pucks with their chin…
Caravaggio is considered the first modern artist for the way he introduced naturalism: real emotion and psychology to painting. There are a dozen allegedly original Caravaggio works that form the allure of heart of “Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome”, a major exhibition for National Gallery of Canada. Among them is the recently discovered St. Augustine, a painting lost since the 19th century which will be publicly exhibited for the first time.
The controversy is that four centuries after Caravaggio’s death, the experts cannot reach consensus on which paintings were done by the master and which by his acolytes. This process is further impeded by the fact that Caravaggio often made copies, duplicates that had variations, and since he was on the run frequently, these copies were not always of uniform quality. Also, sometimes the copies received slightly differing names attributed by the experts.
The myth or phenomenon of Caravaggio’s life as a law- breaking, sexually promiscuous rebel is an industry in itself that seems to surpass his painting. The hint of trauma, the dash of overstimulation, the touch of seductive fantasy and a sometimes saturation to the bursting point makes some work seem perceptually overwhelming. So, he’s in the pantheon with Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and a host of other sexy, hallowed and enigmatic pop culture figures. But, Caravaggio is not a pop figure. If anything its a very articulate examination of how we interpret and the tricks that memory play on us. A narrative about identity and about resisting the identity given to us. There is also a negative identity in his work that opposes the Christian positive identity which s the source of the “antagonistic” label. That and the sense of abandonment by god which led to the introduction of the profane.
David Eskerdjian: So what is it about Caravaggio that makes him so special for our age? In my opinion, it is a unique combination of factors. Not just his homicidal bad-boy image, although it cannot be said to have done him any harm in the posterity stakes. Not just his gay icon potential either, although that must often in the past have been the objection that dared not speak its name… In the end, and not forgetting all these contributory factors, paradoxically the real reason we revere Caravaggio is because we agree with so many previous commentators down the centuries about his art, but love what they loathed. It is the collision of unfiltered naturalism with an operatic sense of drama that makes Caravaggio so overwhelming, and it may not be by chance that his public breakthrough came in the age of film noir, when highly wrought chiaroscuro was the dominant cinematic—and therefore visual—mode. Now more than ever, our jaded sensibilities require extreme stimuli, and we are exceptionally impatient. The immediacy and directness of Caravaggio, allied to the death-fixated violence of so many of his creations, seem ideally suited to the present age. It may have taken an astonishingly long time for his hour to come, but from today’s perspective it is now virtually impossible to imagine that his sun will ever set. Read More:http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Caravaggio-sex-violence-and-film-noir%20/21202 aaa a
Caravaggio’s work, with its stark realism and dramatic, emotional subject matter, helped to launch modern painting. Using real-life models to portray saints and religious figures that had previously been depicted as superhuman made his subjects seem suddenly accessible.
His work frequently glamorized masculinity. He
sented young men with more exposed flesh than was probably necessary, making his work controversial in its time. He painted street toughs dressed for duels with their weapons drawn or at the ready. Read More:http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Caravaggios_modern_gaze-10369.aspx