Light & Shade - Caroline Ashwood

February 14, 2017

Clear or dark? That is the question.

If you’ve ever come across paintings by artists like Caravaggio or Rembrandt, you may have noticed that they had a fondness for bright bits and dark bits. A fierce yellow glow of a burning candle lights up a face as if to emphasize the deepness of the shadows that fall behind the face.

It is a very dramatic and charismatic technique. And, of course, being prone to all things dramatic, the italians were the first to recognise this visual technique and give it a name - chiaroscuro, meaning (literally translated) clear/dark.

 (My painting named 'Chiaroscuro')

The technique was developed during the Renaissance period and the likes of Leonardo Di Vinci were partial to its use. Indeed, as in all his creative pursuits he was a master of it.

However, Signore Caravaggio seems to have taken ownership of it with his greatest works being depictions of biblical events; often on a biblical scale. He liked to work big.

His genius was destined to afford him immortality within the arts. His chosen subject matter was, in the main, religious, godly and Heaven bent. But, his private life was also the polar opposite. And it was also going to assure his notoriety as a man who frequently distinguished himself by his outrageous behaviour. It was notorious enough in the 1600s that he was regarded as a sexual deviant of both persuasions. But, he crossed the social line when he killed or possibly murdered a young man, a fellow artist named Tomassoni, who was also an occasional assistant in Caravaggio’s studio. It was also rumoured that he and Tomassoni were lovers. This, without question, was Caravaggio really coming out and showing us his darkest side.

 (I have a fondness for 'bright bits and light bits to enhance shadow - Molten Mosaic)

Caravaggio had quite a reputation as a bar room brawler and gambler. His police record of arrests and charges of the time was lengthy and varied. So it’s possible that the killing of Tomassoni may have been a drunken accident or a gambling quarrel that got out of hand. Either way, Caravaggio became a fugitive of the law. In those days in Rome, policing was very parochial. With Caravaggio exiled to Naples under the patronage of some very influential and rich patrons, he went from being Rome’s most outrageous murder suspect, to become the most famous painter in Naples.

If we put aside the suspected psychotic side to his nature, the is a clear and intoxicating aura to the man which shines out from his work. Genius is not an exaggeration when referring to the canon and the skills and passion he captures in every piece.

 (I love to use light and bright metallics over dark colours - Blue lagoon)

A turbulent life, a troubled virtuoso, a glowing legacy. Of Angels and Demons. A lot of light, and plenty of shade.

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