Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Biography

Caravaggio's Biography - the Early Years
Caravaggio's Biography - the Middle Years
Caravaggio's Biography - the Late Years

Birth Year : 1573
Death Year : 1609
Country : Italy


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, revolutionary naturalist painter, was born in Caravaggio near Milan. Caravaggio was the son of a mason.

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Judith and Holofernes, 1599
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He showed his artistic talent early and at the age of 16, after a brief apprenticeship in Milan, he was studying with d'Arpino in Rome. During the period 1592-1598, Caravaggio's work was precise in contour, brightly colored, and sculpturesque in form, like the Mannerists, but with an added moral and social consciousness. By 1600 when Caravaggio had completed his first public commission, the St. Matthew paintings for the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, he established himself as an opponent of both intellectual Mannerism and classicism. Caravaggio chose his models from the common people and set them in ordinary settings, yet managed to lose neither poetry nor deep spiritual feeling. Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro - the contrast of light and dark to create atmosphere, drama, and emotion - was revolutionary. His light is unreal, comes from outside the painting, and creates relief and dark shadow. The resulting paintings are as exciting in their effect upon the senses as on the intellect.

Caravaggio's art was not popular with ordinary people, who saw in it a lack of reverence. His art was highly appreciated by artists of his time and has become recognized through the centuries for its religious nature as well as for the new techniques that have changed the art of painting. Though he received many commissions for religious paintings during his short life, Caravaggio led a wild and bohemian existence. In 1606, after killing a man in a fight, Caravaggio fled to Naples. Unfortunately, he was soon in trouble again, and was forced to flee to Malta where he died of malaria at the age of 36. His influence, which was first seen in early 17th century Italian art, eventually spread to France, England, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Continue Reading: Caravaggio's Biography the Early Years

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