‘Caravaggio - A life sacred and profane’

November 03 2010 — by Keith Bradshaw
There are few artists whose work continues to influence our contemporary visual language as Michelangelo di Caravaggio. What we would now refer to as cinematic lighting was depicted in his painted scenes: scenes aching to move, change and animate. The extremes of light and dark, commonly referred to as chiaroscuro, manage to capture atmospheres of violence, anger and a sense of stress and malevolence in equal measure to suggestions of tranquillity, excitement and eroticism. The allure of his work is that it connects us to universal feelings felt our own lives. Patchy but dependable evidence suggests that his realist technique was enhanced by the skilful use of mirrors and optics (a crude form of camera obscura) but the artistry remains in capturing the scene, forming its composition and organising its narrative. Caravaggio’s recorded history of violent drunkenness, debt and social disorder suggest a life in chaos however his work suggests a clarity and sense of purpose. In Andrew Graham-Dixon’s book ‘Caravaggio- A life sacred and profane’ Graham-Dixon explores the limited facts known of Michelangelo di Caravaggio’s real life.
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