Caravaggio exhibition in London


This video from Britain is called Trailer | Beyond Caravaggio | The National Gallery, London.

By Mike Quille in England:

Heretic, subversive, revolutionary

Thursday 10th November 2016

An exhibition on Caravaggio and his contemporaries confirms him as a supremely innovative and radical artist, says MIKE QUILLE

CURATORS sometimes overuse the word revolutionary when promoting exhibitions but it is an apt description of the six paintings by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio which hang alongside those of his admirers, rivals and imitators at the National Gallery.

The show Beyond Caravaggio demonstrates just how innovative, oppositional and subversive his paintings were — and are.

Rome in the early 17th century was a city deeply divided by class, with a tiny minority of very rich and powerful people and large numbers of poor. It was also dominated by the Church which then, as now, often served to legitimise the exploitation of the many by the few.

Art was commissioned and deployed by the popes and cardinals to provide conformist devotional images, part of the ideological justification for an unjust social order.

But Caravaggio’s art was both heretical and revolutionary. Long before thinkers were articulating theories of how religion expressed and inverted worldly suffering, he took religious themes and, visually, brought them down to earth.

In Supper at Emmaus, the scepticism and shock on the careworn faces of peasants in their tattered work clothes gives a resolutely human and mundane perspective on sacred events. Imagine the reactions of poor pilgrims from all over Europe, streaming past these paintings, seeing themselves depicted realistically in sacred scenes for the first time.

The striking realism and “tenebrism” of Caravaggio — strongly contrasting tones, piercing light and vast pools of inky shadows — heightens the emotional challenge and drama in the images, as exemplified in The Taking of Christ.

Like the noir film genre, surely part of his legacy, it is a visual expression of the uncertainties, contradictions and obscure, violent terrors of the precarious social existence around him.

Caravaggio’s art includes, involves and empowers. In Supper at Emmaus, the disciples’ hands stretch out, drawing us into the composition. For the first time in the history of Western art, the space between viewer and scene has been destroyed.

And, in contrast to traditional religious art, the meanings in Caravaggio’s paintings are challenging, ambiguous and negotiable, liberating us from a lazy, deferential consent to the dominant ways of thinking and feeling so omnipresent in class-divided societies.

In paintings such as Card Players, depicting a foppish, soft-skinned aristocrat being cheated at cards by a lowlife character, whose side are we supposed to be on? Is this not a painting of resistance and rebellion, of playfully imagined expropriation by the lower classes from the rich thieves who rule them?

In the light — and dark — of Caravaggio’s amazing achievement, it is perhaps not surprising that most of the other paintings in the exhibition are nowhere near as good. There are some technically good imitations but generally his admirers and imitators reverted to the mainstream aesthetics of devotion, awe and pity in religious art and a relatively anaemic realism in secular art.

The upheavals of 20th-century modernism are what make Caravaggio’s art look incredibly of the here and now. The enduring power of his paintings shows us that truly great art is intrinsically opposed to class-divided societies.

Now, we are used to subversive ambiguity, social awareness and uncomfortable challenges to the viewer. Then, it was truly revolutionary — a radical cultural struggle against the established aesthetic and ideological order.

And because our unequal world is not so different from his, we can still feel the strength of his challenging, complex and oppositional art.

In that sense art has not, in fact, gone beyond Caravaggio.

Beyond Caravaggio runs at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2, until January 15, box office: nationalgallery.org.uk and then tours to Dublin and Edinburgh.

Caravaggio, Schalcken paintings rediscovered (?)


This video says about itself:

Baroque Caravaggio Project

17 February 2012

Description of Caravaggio‘s paintings:

Judith Beheading Holofernes

Martyrdom of Saint Matthew

The Seven Works of Mercy

Caravaggio depicted Judith Beheading Holofernes twice. One version is well-known and mentioned in the video. The other version appeared to be lost. Until, maybe, now.

From the BBC today:

Painting thought to be Caravaggio masterpiece found in French loft

A painting that may be by the Italian master Caravaggio and worth £94m ($135m) has been found in the loft of a house in southern France.

It was found in Toulouse two years ago and passed to art expert Eric Turquin, who says it is a version of the 1599 work, Judith Beheading Holofernes.

He said it was discovered by the owners when they investigated a roof leak.

The French government has placed a bar on the work leaving the country for 30 months while tests are carried out.

The work, which depicts the Biblical heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general,

rather: Babylonian

is thought to have gone missing about 100 years after it was painted.

Another version of it, which was also thought to be lost before its rediscovery in 1950, hangs in Rome’s National Gallery of Ancient Art.

Experts at Paris’ Louvre Museum are examining the work to try to establish its creator, though Turquin said there would “never be a consensus” on who painted it.

If it proves to be genuine, the French Government will be given the first chance to purchase the work.

Caravaggio – whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi – was born in 1571 or 1573 and had a violent and chaotic life, dying in mysterious circumstances at the age of 38.

He pioneered the Baroque painting technique known as chiaroscuro, in which light and shadow are sharply contrasted.

He was famed for starting brawls, often ended up in jail, and even killed a man.

He was allegedly on his way to Rome to seek a pardon when he died, having spent the last few years of his life fleeing justice in southern Italy.

Dutch NOS TV reports today that a 1667 painting by Dutch seventeenth century painter Godfried Schalcken has been found again, after having been lost.

Young woman offering a wafer, by Godfried Schalcken

The painting is called Young woman offering a wafer.

‘Today’s artists neglect poor people’


This video from the USA is called Käthe Kollwitz: The Face of Early 20th Century Expressionism, Socialism, Feminism, and Pacifism.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Poverty lines: where are the poor in art today?

Jonathan Jones

Tuesday 30 December 2014 10.00 GMT

Caravaggio, Bruegel and Van Gogh all made studies of the poor in spite of rich patronage. Why aren’t more artists doing that now?

Art has a long history of entertaining the rich. From ancient artisans who made gold drinking cups for kings, to the artists of today who sell installations to plutocrats, art has been a luxury product, the servant of money. And yet it also has a social conscience. At this consumerist time of year, it is worth looking at some of the ways artists portray poverty.

This Italian video is about Caravaggio’s Madonna of Loreto.

Caravaggio never lets you forget the reality of Roman street life in the 17th century. His two pilgrims in The Madonna of Loreto look poverty stricken. The man’s feet are bare and dirty. Shoeless feet appear time and again in Caravaggio’s art, and from him this marker of poverty was adopted by other baroque artists. Even that great flatterer of the rich, Anthony van Dyck, imitated Caravaggio by showing unshod feet of the poor in Adoration of the Shepherds.

These shoeless feet in baroque art are a clue to the massive social contrasts of pre-modern Europe. It is only by looking at these paintings that we can see, as a stark, visible fact, the reality that the poor had no shoes in the Rome of Caravaggio’s day. Of course, there are plenty of places where people today go shoeless. The poverty Caravaggio depicts is no thing of the past; that is one of the reasons he remains so powerful.

But what drew artists to show the extreme polarities of wealth and poverty in their age? Were they revolutionaries? There were massive popular protests in Naples in the 1620s, at the height of baroque art. José de Ribera painted poverty in Naples with acute compassionate realism in this period. Is he a radical critic of the social order?

More often, artists, whose main work was religious art, were drawing attention to the paradoxes of the Christian message. Churches were full of fine art, yet Christianity praises poverty. When Velázquez portrayed a water-seller on the streets of Seville, he was showing Christian virtues of humility and patience.

And yet … it is truly astonishing, given that all their income came from the wealthy and powerful, how much detail of the lives of the poor painters have preserved.

The urban poor, shoeless and ragged, populate baroque art. In Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting The Harvesters, peasants enjoy lunch in the sun in a golden wheatfield. Maybe it’s an idyll, but this painting shows that you do not need to be a lord or lady to enjoy the sunshine. It’s free.

This video is called Van Gogh on The Potato Eaters.

Some 300 years later, Vincent van Gogh set out on a personal mission to the poor. The son of a pastor, he was torn between religious and artistic vocations. His most ambitious portrayal of poverty, The Potato Eaters, is a passionate attempt to put the lives of poor country people into art.

Van Gogh admired the social conscience of Charles Dickens and of British artists who depicted workhouses and the underside of Victorian life. These included Dickens’s friend Luke Fildes, whose painting Applicants to a Casual Ward portrays homelessness in 1870s London. Another stark image of British poverty by Luke Fildes is simply called Houseless and Hungry. One to remember at Christmas.

Van Gogh and his contemporaries were still motivated by the same ambiguous mix of Christianity, compassion and honest observation that had drawn artists to the realities of poverty back in Caravaggio’s day, but the world was changing fast. The poor were no longer passive objects of pity. Socialism was stirring.

This video from Italy is about Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo’s painting The Fourth Estate.

In Guiseppe [sic; Giuseppe] Pellizza da Volpedo’s painting The Fourth Estate, the rural poor march towards you, into history. It is the start of the 20th century: the painting dates from about 1901. The forward march of labour has begun.

So here we are in the 21st century. The forward march of labour ended some time ago. How do today’s artists portray poverty? Interesting question – for perhaps wealth has never been more raw and obvious in the art world. This is the age of the diamond skull. Compared with the compassion of a Caravaggio or Van Gogh, contemporary art really does seem to take the rich collector’s view on life.

Where’s our Luke Fildes? For images of economic injustice in today’s art you probably have to look outside the gallery world. Banksy’s Maid in London is the definitive image of inequality today. Perhaps it will be remembered when Hirst is forgotten, just as we have forgotten all the stuffy portraits of Victorian capitalists but crowd and queue to see The Potato Eaters.

Caravaggio drawings discovery


This video is called The Power of Art – Caravaggio.

From AFP news agency:

Italy experts find 100 drawings by young Caravaggio

3 hours ago

ROME: Italian art experts have discovered around 100 drawings and a few paintings done by the young Renaissance master Caravaggio when he was training in Milan, ANSA news agency said Thursday.

The artworks were found among a collection at Sforza Castle by pupils of painter Simone Peterzano, with whom Caravaggio studied from the age of 11, and could be worth around 700 million euros ($867 million), the experts said.

New Caravaggio painting discovered


This video is called The Power of Art – Caravaggio.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Unknown Caravaggio painting unearthed in Britain

The painting, an intimate depiction of Saint Augustine dated to 1600, was found by a dealer in a private collection

See also here.