Friday, August 3, 2007
All works, no matter what or by whom painted, are nothing but bagatelles and childish trifles ... unless they are made and painted from life, and there can be nothing ... better than to follow nature.
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A Milanese painter, b. at Caravaggio in 1569, d. at Porto d' Ercole in 1609. His family name was Morigi, but he assumed that of his birthplace, and was known by that almost exclusively. He was the son of a mason, and as a boy worked at preparing the plaster for the fresco painters of Milan, acquiring from them a great desire to become an artist. He received no instruction as a youth, but trained himself by copying natural objects, doing the work with such rigid accuracy that in later life he was seldon able to rid himself of a habit of slavish and almost mechanical imitation. After five years of strenuous work he found his way to Venice, where he carefully studied the works of Giorgione, and received instruction from an unknown painter. Thence he went to Rome, and on account of his poverty engaged himself to Cesare d'Arpino, who employed him to execute the floral and ornamental parts of his pictures. He soon, however, acquired a reputation for his own work, and his accurate imitations of natural objects were attractive. The artist's hot temper, however, led him to trouble, and in a fit of anger he killed one of his friends and had to leave Rome in haste. For a while he was at Naples and then in Malta, where twice he painted the portrait of the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, but he quarrelled with one of the Order, who threw him into prison, and it was with difficulty that he escaped, fled to Syracuse and returned to Naples. There he obtained a pardon for the manslaughter of his companion, set out again for Rome, was taken prisoner on the way by some Spaniards who mistook him for another person, and when set at liberty found that he had lost his boat and all that it contained. At Porto d' Ercole he fell ill and died of a violent fever.
His paintings are to be found at Rome, Berlin, Dresden, Paris, St. Petersburg, Malta, Copenhagen, Munich, and in the national Gallery, London. His colouring is vigorous, extraordinary, and daring; in design he is often careless, in drawing frequently inacccurate, but his flesh tints are exceedingly good, and his skill in lighting, although inaccurate and full of tricks is very attractive. His pictures are distinguished by startling contrasts in light and shadow and by extraordinary effects of light on half-length figures, giving the desired appearance of high relief, the general effect of the remainder of the picture being over sombre. [Adapted from Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)]
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