Monday, January 11, 2010
Caravaggio is my favorite painter. Painting in the beginning of the era known as "Counter-reformation," Caravaggio is known for his realism, his use of light and shadow and the dynamic scenes he depicts in his pictures. He was definitely a contemporary artist, in the current sense of the word. Whereas his contemporaries were still painting angels and prophets in heaven in the Renaissance style, Caravaggio chose his models from the slums of Rome, and painted Biblical scenes in contemporary Rome. This struck a chord in the illiterate masses, whom the Catholic church were trying to "protect" from the influence of the Reformation coming from the Teutonic world. Not similar to contemporary artists of today, he was very popular among the masses.
There was something very "modern" in Caravaggio's attitude and style, that I could feel and see in his paintings, and was not able to name. Yesterday, I started reading Michael Focault's review of Kant's short piece "Answer to the question: What is Enlightment?" In it I found exactly the phrase, which describes Caravaggio's modernity:
"Modernity is the attitude that makes it possible to grasp the 'heroic' aspect of the present moment. Modernity is not a phenomenon of sensitivity to the fleeting present; it is the will to 'heroize' the present."
The paintings The Calling of St. Matthew and The Card Players demonstrate this point extremely well.