Apr 032010

Power of Art – Caravaggio: Caravaggio’s approach to painting was unconventional. He avoided the standard method of making copies of old sculptures and instead took the more direct approach of painting directly onto canvas without drawing first. He also used people from the street as his models. His dramatic painting was enhanced with intense and theatrical lighting.

Caravaggio’s fate was sealed when in 1606 he killed a man in a duel. He fled to Naples where he attempted to paint his way out of trouble, he became a Knight, but was then imprisoned in Malta and then finally he moved to Sicily. He was pardoned for murder in 1610, but he died of a fever attempting to return to Rome.

Simon Schama on Caravaggio: In Caravaggio’s time it was believed that artists were given their talent by God to bring beauty to the world and to put mortal creatures in touch with their higher selves or souls. Caravaggio never did anything the way it was supposed to be done.

In this painting of the victory of virtue over evil it’s supposed to be David who is the centre of attention, but have you ever seen a less jubilant victory? On his sword is inscribed “Humilitus Occideit Superbium”, that is, humility conquers pride. This is the battle that has been fought out inside Caravaggio’s head between the two sides of the painter that are portrayed here.

For me the power of Caravaggio’s art is the power of truth, not least about ourselves. If we are ever to hope for redemption we have to begin with the recognition that in all of us the Goliath competes with the David.

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