The Art of Using Light and Darkness

using-light-and-darknessOne of the most famous painters of his day was Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio – which is usually shortened to simply Caravaggio.

He was born in Italy in 1571 and met his end in 1610 after a colourful and often disturbed life which saw him create masterpieces, but also resulted in many a drunken brawls, during which he is even thought to have killed a man.

Caravaggio is most famous for his use of light-play, mixing shafts of light with dark shadows to create effects which had not been seen before his arrival onto the art scene. Because he was often wanted for some crime or another, Caravaggio constantly relocated during his time as a painter. He based himself in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily at various times during his short existence.

Caravaggio was also known for pulling people off the street to be his models. Close inspection of his work shows that there is often dirt under the finger and toenails of the subjects painted, even though they may have been representing holy men and women. It was under this guise that he produced some of his most impressive works in the chiaroscuro technique. The painting often featured part of the subject in the light and the rest of the painting in the dark with little blending in between.

Caravaggio used anyone at hand, whether it was a beggar, a street urchin or even fellow drunks from the taverns. But in 1606, the Pope put a death sentence on Caravaggio after a man was killed due to an argument and he fled to Malta as a result. Despite taking commissions there, he escaped to Sicily in 1608, only to be arrested for another brawl a year later. His behaviour got worse and he was again arrested in Naples in 1609. At the age of 38, he was reported to have died from a fever while on his way to Rome, where he was expected to be pardoned.

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