Baroque Star: New Yale book examines Caravaggio’s influence

Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome

Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome

The Italian artist Caravaggio (1571-1610) had a profound impact on a wide range of baroque painters of Italian, French, Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish origin who resided in Rome during his lifetime and immediately afterward. Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome is a captivating new book from Yale University Press that provides a vivid, compelling account of how Caravaggio became one of the greatest artistic influences on Baroque painters throughout Europe.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio burst upon the Rome art scene in 1600 with the success of his first public commissions, the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and Calling of Saint Matthew. Despite his prolific artistic output and far-reaching influence on baroque painters of the time, he is remembered today as something of a hellraiser (he was thrown in jail on several occasions, vandalized his own apartment, and ultimately had a death warrant issued for him by the Pope). Notorious while he lived, Caravaggio was forgotten almost immediately after his death, and it was only in the 20th century that his importance to the development of Western art was rediscovered. Despite this, his influence on the new Baroque style was profound.

'Martha and Mary Magdalene' by Caravaggio (c1598)

Published last month, Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome illustrates the notion of ‘Caravaggism’, showcasing 65 works by Peter Paul Rubens and other important artists of the period who drew inspiration from Caravaggio (these pieces are the focus of a North American exhibition). Also depicted are Caravaggio canvases that fully exhibit his distinctive style, along with ones that had a particularly discernible impact on other practitioners.

Page Spreads from 'Caravaggio and his Followers in Rome'

Caravaggio’s influence was greatest in Rome, where his works were seen by the largest and most international group of artists, and was at its peak in the early decades of the 17th century both before and after his untimely death at the age of 39. Not since Michelangelo or Raphael has one European artist affected so many of his contemporaries and over such broad geographic territory. The book contains essays by an array of major Caravaggio scholars, who illuminate the underlying principles of the exhibition, reveal how Caravaggio altered the presentation and interpretation of many traditional subjects and inspired unusual new ones, and explore the artist’s legacy and how he irrevocably changed the course of painting.

Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome is published in association with the National Gallery of Canada, and accompanies an exhibition at both the National Gallery Canada (10/06/11 – 11/09/11) and the Kimbell Art Museum (09/10/11 – 08/01/12).

Watch the Exhibition’s Trailer

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