Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Paintings an artist should know, featuring some Italians I forgot

44) Mars and Venus united by love by Paolo Veronese 1528-1588

Born the son of a stoneworker and apprenticed to a painting workshop at an early age, Veronese rose to become one of the three most important Venetian painters. He was an exponent of the late renaissance style called mannerism. Mannerism is what happened after the classical period off the high renaissance. Artists began to work in more stylish and idiosyncratic styles. They also grew less interested in the classical examples of the ancients. An artificiality and heightened color gave a "look" that had an element of "fashion" to it, as opposed to the timeless reserve of the high minded classicists. Here Mars disrobes Venus with some help from a precocious baby who pins one of her legs.

Veronese is held up as a great colorist. Below is an example of the glowing but mannered color of which he was capable.

45) Feast at the house of Levi also Veronese.
This enormous picture is a last supper. I think if you click on it you will see a much larger image. It was painted for the dining room of a basilica and Veronese included all sorts of random folks like German soldiers and some nice dwarfs. This was noticed by the Inquisition and he was called upon to defend the painting. He did that, and his statement is part of the great body of artists writings that are occasionally referenced by scholars. He solved the problem not by removing the interlopers from the dinner scene, but by changing it's title to The feast of Levi.

46) The calling of Saint Mathew by Caravaggio 1571-1610
A complicated character, Caravaggio developed a style based on extreme chiaroscuro, or light and dark. He enveloped subjects in deep shadow and then sent rays of light into his scenes to provide drama, like the lighting in a theater. He worked direct from nature, posing models as he worked. He had a realism which was unique at the time and was able to secure many commissions. However he had a dark side. Caravaggio was given to street fighting and was arrested many times. Italy of the day was a rough place and even in that world he was an extraordinarily combative thug.
In 1606 he killed a man in a fight and had to flee from Rome to Naples. He established himself there, Italy was not a united country and Naples was its own city state, so he was beyond the reach of the authorities from Rome. There he executed a number of important commissions for the church. As difficult as he was he seemed to be valued so highly that he was still in demand.In 1608 he was arrested and imprisoned in Malta after another brawl where he kicked down a door and attacking and seriously injuring a knight who must have had better connections than his previous assaultees. Caravaggio escaped to Sicily and continued to paint commissions for the churches there.
He grew stranger and crazier and upon to returning to Naples was attacked by some enemy he had made, who that was, is now lost to history but his face was disfigured. He died of a fever in 1610.

Caravaggio's pictures were an influence on many later artists who were inspired by his use of light and shadow,. Rembrandt is probably the best example. Many of the painters he influenced were referred to as Caravaggisti. Caravaggio was forgotten except by the coterie of artists who saw his art on their trips to Italy, until the 20th century when his enormous influence was recognized as a common thread running through many generations of painters.

47) The entombment of Christ, Caravaggio

Some images from


Brady said...

Caravaggio sounds like a crazy guy. I wonder how he had enough time to ever paint anything. I also wonder if he ever broke something and had to wait until it healed to paint again.

bvpainter said...

An Italian claims to have found Caravaggio's grave. There seems to be some mystery as to how he actually died.

A painter that you might like to include is the little known Jan Gossaerts. A major exhibition of his work has just opened in London, to rave reviews. have not been there yet but will not miss it. The major painting is an Adoration of the Magi, and another painting which has got a lot of mentions is 'An Elderly Couple,. It is on at our National Gallery, and I think was previously on in new York.

Philip Koch said...

The Mars and Venus painting by Veronese has a wonderful composition and is a four star example of making warms and cools dance together.

And the two Caravaggio oils are just among the most amazing paintings ever. Long ago when I was a student at the Art Students League of New York I bought an oversized book on Caravaggio and just fell into a swoon over the Calling of St. Mathew painting. The painting gives us a wake up call to pay attention to light.

T Arthur Smith said...

Don't forget Simon Vouet, and Mattia Pretti - two great artists in the same style.

Deborah Paris said...

Glad to see you finally got round to Caravaggio! From what I have read he was on his way back to Rome when he died- his supporters having finally negotiated some sort of deal so he could return and paint for the bigwigs there. There is also some evidence he may have been murdered by some who didn't want him coming back. He might could have used some anger management classes but oh, what amazing, powerful paintings he made!

billspaintingmn said...

Crazy like a fox! I'm sure the times were cruel, and Caracaggio had to deal with it the best way he could. A great defence is a great offence,(or vise-versa)

I wonder how many other 'thugs' the church supported in their quest to save mankind.

I dought he schemed to harm, unless there was a threat to himself.
But I could be wrong! Maybe this guy was a bad apple and his karma
ran over his dogma!
It's interesting how these artists lives, when matched to there paintings reveal a human personality, and maybe even a mind set of the times.
Stape! Are these paintings we should know, or artists we should know? When I google these guys, there is a ton of stuff!
I find this all interesting, and realize how little I know. If there's a test, I'm in trouble.
The calling of St.Mathew, although a wonderful painting, doesnt't make sense to me. It appears more renaissance style than early christianity.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't know if he had to quit painting but he was certainly injured at least once.

Stapleton Kearns said...

There are a lot of stories about his death including one that he was murdered.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I remember when you could smoke oin the stairwell at the Art Students League!

Stapleton Kearns said...

T. Arthur:
This is a greatest hits album. I am not going that deep.Gotta have some top 40n hits.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Everyone in the north will think "might could" is a typo, but I know better.

Stapleton Kearns said...

No he went off on people and sought out fights. He was really about as nasty as he could be. He wasn't misunderstood, he was a violent hothead who picked fights for sport and routinely beat people.