Beyond Caravaggio – National Gallery

When you look at a painting what do you see? The overall beauty of the picture? The brush strokes? The life like capture of the event, the person? The painstaking care given to draw each strand of hair, fold of the fabric, wrinkle of skin, ripple of muscle, glint in the eye, or the story being told?

I think you’ve already guessed what I have been doing today. Yes, the National Gallery is holding an exhibition titled ‘ Beyond Caravaggio’. It is an exploration of Caravaggio’s influence on other artists across Europe. I am not an art expert. I just enjoy the painting as it is. That’s all. Although I have seen paintings by Caravaggio in the museums in Naples, Florence and Paris, I have never given it much thought. We did visit Cathedrals and museums in Malta, but I don’t remember seeing the Caravaggio paintings there either. The next time I see a Caravaggio painting, I will definitely take note.

Born in Italy around 1571, Caravaggio died at the young age of 38. During his short life he produced a number of important works. He painted from life without making drawings and used light in his paintings with dramatic effect. Each of his paintings told a story. Frequently in trouble with the law, he did not sound as if he was an easy man to get along with. During the last year’s of his life he was on the run from the law after killing a man during a brawl.

Six of his paintings were depicted in the exhibition. Two of his early works in the first room were shown with works by other painters who were influenced by him and this theme followed for the rest of the exhibition. ‘Boy bitten by a lizard’ shows a boy recoiling with shock as he is bitten by a lizard while he was handling some fruits. Apparently the lizard and the pain is to denote the heartache/pain that can come with the sensual pleasures of love.

The more stunning works were the ‘Taking of Christ’, ‘Supper at Emmaus’ and finally ‘John the Baptist’.

I found the artwork by some of his followers equally intriguing. Works by Ribera, Gentileschi and many more. The objective of the curators were to bring these artists to our attention and they certainly managed to do that.

I spent a leisurely two hours at the exhibition taking my time to go through the artworks that I found interesting.

There is a Michaelangelo exhibition coming up soon according to the girls at the counter and I have signed up to become a member, so that I can keep abreast with the latest events and learn more about this fascinating topic.

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