Caravaggio, Italian Baroque artist, one of the most brilliant representatives of naturalism painting in the 17th century. His religious compositions address to the Counter Reformation liking for realism, austerity, and piety in art. Equally significant is his dramatic application of chiaroscuro - contrasting spaces of light and dark (Gealt 57).
Caravaggio’s influence on the art of his century is significant. He was fated to turn a great part of European art away from the idealistic viewpoint of the Renaissance to the notion that everyday reality was of primary significance. He was one of the first to depict people as ordinary looking. Caravaggio’s main subjects are religious ones which he embodies with real courage as vitally proved. Caravaggio has a strong plastic modeling of form; he puts the oil-paint over the canvas with big, wide dabs applying strong contrasts of light and shadow that enhance the dramatic effects of many of his paintings. Sometimes Caravaggio’s works reached such a realistic force that clients refused from them not seeing the proper piety and ideality in the images.
“The Crucifixion of Saint Peter" is one of Caravaggio’s masterpieces. Three dishonest characters, their faces are concealed or turned away, are drawing, dragging and thrusting the cross to which Peter is nailed by the feet with his head put down (Moir 45).
Caravaggio’s Saint Peter cannot be called a heroic martyr, nor a Herculean hero relatively to Michelangelo, he is an old man suffering from pang and in fear of death. The scene that takes place on some stony field is dismal. The obscure, impermeable background attracts the viewer’s gaze back again to the keenly illuminated people who remind us, through the banal deformity of their actions and motions - note the yellow back and filthy feet of the lower man - that the death of the apostle did not look like a heroic drama, but a hapless and humiliating execution. Rembrandt was a portrait painter. He applies the Baroque device of spotlighting the parts that are most significant in his self-portraits. The golden tinges of his subtly lit canvas make a series of individual portraits. His method of using paint in touches of heavy-laden brushes is named impasto and sometimes adds an almost sculptural measurement to his work. Rembrandt is also famous for his religious paintings. He was one of few artists that created religious paintings in Protestant Holland.
His famous painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son" (about 1668-1669) is considered to be an epilogue of Rembrandt’s works in which ethical height and picturesque skill of the artist have been shown up (Gealt 93). The plot of the biblical parable about a prodigal son who has returned home after long wanderings attracted Rembrandt earlier. One of his earliest etchings and some drawings prove it. In the figures of a ragged youth who has knelt down and of an aged man who has put his hands on the youth’s clean-shaven head is seen the utmost intensity of feelings, the mental convulsion, the happiness of return, the bottomless parental love as well as bitter taste of disillusions, losses, humiliations, shame and penitence. This humaneness makes the scene understandable for people of all times and makes it eternal. The unity of colours especially astounds here. From orange-red tinges of the background – everything is a single picturesque current that is perceived as an expression of one feeling.
The two representatives of Baroque style brought great changes into the art of their epoch. “The Crucifixion of St Peter" of Caravaggio is full of vital energy, realistic tinges and motion. The artist uses the notion of time, dramatic application of light, and a fervent theatricality in his painting. Caravaggio dresses his heroes in modern clothes, places them into a simple, familiar setting and in this way he gets the more cogency. The whole scene is so realistic that it seems as if the heroes are alive.
On the contrary, Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son" is full of vivid colors though they are obscure and soft. His painting shows us the reality of the intensity of feelings but in an opposite way. Rembrandt applies the dramatic effect of black light contrast to intensify the emotion influence on the audience that is certainly seen here.
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