Beyond Caravaggio

Art, Painting
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Beyond Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: 'Supper at Emmaus', 1601. © National Gallery

Prepare for disappointment, as the actress said to the bishop. There aren’t a lot of Caravaggio paintings in this exhibition. Yes, it says Caravaggio in the title, and yes, that’s a bit of a bloody liberty, especially because most of them are already in the National Gallery’s permanent collection, so you can see them for free most of the time anyway. What you’re missing is the ‘beyond’ bit, you see. Because this isn’t a show of Caravaggio paintings at all, silly you, it’s a show of work influenced by him. But trust us, it’s still pretty thrilling. 

Caravaggio was a superstar in seventeenth-century Italy. Everyone wanted his paintings, and every artist wanted to paint like him. His style changed the way art was made, and this show looks at his incredible impact. So what is Caravaggism? Luckily not something you need an ointment for, but a style of painting defined by jarring contrasts of bright light and sombre dark (‘chiaroscuro’, if you want to be fancy), combined with a mastery of still life and a total dedication to clarity, drama, storytelling and vicious realism. 

The show puts a handful of Caravaggio works in relation to a whole bunch of paintings by his friends, followers and imitators. It starts with early works, including a couple by his possible servant/ lover Cecco del Caravaggio, the absolute master of Baroque side-eye, before moving on to the star of the show: ‘The Taking of Christ’ (pictured), on loan from the National Gallery of Ireland. It’s a great throbbing mass of black and red, shot through with a maelstrom of white flesh depicting Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss. It’s so full of movement and detail, so rammed with torment and drama, that nothing else in this show can quite match it. Lots of the works around it are great, but Caravaggio shines. It’s a bit like surrounding yourself with less attractive friends to make yourself look hotter.

But that’s unfair, because some of these artists are masters in their own right, they just lack the soap opera drama of the headliner. Lo Spadarino’s religious pictures are stark and pained, Gentileschi’s ‘David and Goliath’ is a snappy exercise in the drama of scale, and then there’s Jusepe de Ribera, with his depictions of drooping, ageing flesh and infinite darkness. His works here are total highlights. 

Ribera’s paintings are followed by a room of Dutch paintings, some inspired by Caravaggio even though the artists may have never even seen his work, that’s how strong his influence was. They lack the flair of their inspiration, but have a warm northern European appeal of their own. Then to round it all off there’s a stunning Nicolas Régnier painting and another jaw-droppingly chiaroscuro-tastic painting by Caravaggio, with Saint John the Baptist looking all sad in a forest.

This is a warm comforting blanket of a show. Dark grey walls, the low lighting, the sumptuous paintings; you could stay here for hours, lost in Caravaggio’s legacy. It’s a world of contrast and realism, where your eyes are taken on joy-rides along highways of bright white flesh and blood reds. There might not be a lot of Caravaggio’s painting here, but he sure inspired a lot of brilliance.

@eddyfrankel

By: Eddy Frankel

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Tastemaker

This exhibition includes Carravagio's first to last paintings as well as the paintings of his followers, rivals, admirers, basically everyone who he influenced. There is also a focus to the International movement that he created and how he influenced French Dutch and Flemish artists. So impressive, detailed, beautiful paintings and the theme most of the time is biblical characters. Most of them are real life sized paintings, mainly from 15th and 16th century. Stare the paintings with your mouth wide open in a "wow" expression. The exhibition is enhanced with dramatic light effects and gorgeous frames. Definitely worth the visit if you're a fan or even if you aren't. Maybe I'm wrong but it reminded me of Musee d'Orsay in Paris and ufizi gallery in Florence!

Tastemaker

What a nice way to get to know Caravaggio and all the painters he influenced; he was one of the influencers of his age. I was a little bummed to find out some of his main works weren't being displayed and more than half of the  exhibition is of painters who were inspired by him; but I still had a lovely morning in the rooms of this exhibition feeling like I was transported to the dark times which he painted which also was reflected in his paintings. My favorite painting was the one with Caravaggio in it. 

Tastemaker

Carvaggios legacy - The power of story telling

light retrospective for those who want an easy intro into this art period

The final room at this exhibition is called 'Carvaggios Legacy - The power of story telling' and I think that sums this exhibition up for me. Ok so like a lot of my Time Out tastemaker friends, I'm no art expert...and like the main Time Out reviewer, I was surprised not to find MORE Caravaggio. Yet this dark, moody, awe inspiring painter was quite something to behold. I enjoyed the large, detailed works of art (especially the main one with Christ) and the way each room had a pleasing narrative. You see, Caravaggio was a leader, and it seems where great artists go, others follow. There are other works inspired by Caravaggio making this a easy introduction into this art period. It's just a shame that some of the inspirational works are not in the exhibition, but you can't have everything!

Tastemaker

Caravaggio is always a big draw and although there are only 6 of his works here, those that are present are spectacular. It is lovely to see "The taking of Christ" brought over from Dublin.

This show is nominally about artists who were influenced by Caravaggio, but it is really so much more than this - it documents the evolution of popular art during the 17th Century.

It contains many artists' work which adds to the exhibition's depth. I have read complaints that the exhibition is small, but 49 pictures is about as many as it is possible to view without getting "gallery fatigue".

Congratulations to the National Gallery for putting together an exhibition which is both instructive and crowd pleasing.

Tastemaker

You don’t have to be an art fanatic to enjoy Beyond Caravaggio. Unlike previous galleries you and I have visited before, Caravaggio is easy to appreciate.


Famed for his use of strong contrasting lighting, or Chiaroscuro, Beyond Caravaggio hangs the late artist’s own work and paintings from his followers who were influenced by the great artist’s pioneering work.


Caravaggio used real models to draw the figures in his painting, he treated well-known themes in unprecedented ways, weaved stories and narratives into his paintings and breathed new life into biblical story-telling by his use of strong contrasting lights. A particularly intriguing Caravaggio painting recalls the moment Jesus being betrayed by Judas and in the background Caravaggio includes himself in the scene - almost unnoticeable amidst a chaotic scene before you.


It's not the biggest gallery: there are only 8 rooms to explore. It's also expensive to buy a ticket which sadly is a big minus for me :P Howevre, if you're a member of the National Gallery, entrance is free.


If there’s one painting that I found most profound was this huge painting of Christ before the High Priest towards the end of the gallery. What it lacks in elaborate and intricate detail, speaks volume in terms of the narrative and storytelling which is the hallmarks of a Caravaggio painting.


Paintings can all be pretty difficult to appreciate on your own. Lucky, a video in the theater at the end of the gallery will help you understand the painter’s work even further.


Definitely one of the more enjoyable galleries to lose yourself in. Caravaggio is easy to understand and appreciate. To be enjoyed by art fanatics and casual visitors alike. 

tastemaker

I am no art connoisseur, but even I can tell that Caravaggio was a great painter who influenced many others.  His style is great dark, but his attention to detail is amazing.  I enjoyed the exhibition and learnt a lot not only about Caravaggio but also his contemporaries/those who followed him.  For any art fans, this exhibition is a treat and for those who aren’t, go and learn something new.

Tastemaker

I'm not an art fanatic, I'll admit that, and most of my art appreciation comes from looking up funny art snapchats on the internet (and this exhibition had PLENTY of fodder for that). Beyond Caravaggio isn't a huge sprawling collection of Caravaggios; in fact, I'm pretty sure less than half the paintings are Caravaggios. At the same time, it's a very well curated selection of works, charting Caravaggio's career from his early start to his themed work, and the whole exhibition comes together very nicely. It also serves as a good introduction to some of the other Caravaggio-esque inspired artists (I particularly liked Ribera's work). Look out for the highlight of the exhibition - The Taking Of Christ, which immediately grabbed everyone's attention when walking into the room, and with good reason. There's a wonderful story to this exhibition, and its brevity also makes it easy to fit into a schedule. Don't forget to catch the short film prepared by the gallery as well, which plays every 15 minutes - it gives a great overview and summary of the themes behind the exhibition. Count me won over by Caravaggio's great attention to detail, realism and dynamism! 


What a great exhibition! I'm personally a big Caravaggio fan, but this exhibition shows, as you can expect from its name, his significant influence on the 17th century artists and painters over Europe. I didn't know he had such an impact on his period. The show displays a few pieces from the Caravaggio himself and more from others such as Georges De La Tour. The show isn't too long, which I think is good, because you can appreciate the pieces in a more individual way - the selection is also really relevant and curated. The rooms are dark enough to highlight only the paintings, with a shimmering light that goes perfectly with the artists' style. I would have liked to see a few more paintings but it was also the chance to discover more painters from the same genre. 

I definitely recommend this exhibition, it's totally worth it. 

Tastemaker

Beyond Caravaggio wasn't what I was expecting but nevertheless, there are some interesting pieces here and I learned a few things as well. This exhibition shows works inspired by Caravaggio and also a couple of paintings by the man himself for good measure. We see some of his early playful work depicting card playing, dice and cheats, all with his trademark high contrast lighting and dark backgrounds. We then see works  inspired by the painter popular in the early 17th Century. Depictions of Cupid, Christ facing the doubting Thomas and other works from Italian painters, using oil and canvas to great effect. 7 rooms in total mean you can be here for a good hour if you take your time reading everything and studying the works on show.