The Inspiration of Baroque Style
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter who worked in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1592 and 1610. His style heavily influenced Baroque paintings with its physically and emotionally realistic human figures and use of lighting. Caravaggio moved from Italy to Rome in his twenties because of the demand for paintings in a style other than the artificial Mannerism style. The church drove this demand as part of the Counter Reformation. Caravaggio developed a distinct style, a combination of heavy use of chiaroscuro and close physical observation. Chiaroscuro, also known as tenebrism, is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark. Because of the chiaroscuro Caravaggio's paintings appear to be scenes in total darkness which have suddenly been lit by a spot light. His first public commissions, the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and Calling of Saint Matthew, were great successes which brought him many more commissions throughout his career.
Although his art was successful, his personal affairs were not. He was arrested on several occasions, vandalized his own apartment, had a death warrant issued for him by the pope, and was involved in many fights. He ultimately died under suspicious circumstances while on his way to Rome to accept a pardon. Caravaggio's paintings helped shift the art world from Mannerism to the Baroque style. His influence can be seen in the works of Rubens, Berini, Rembrandt, and the artists of the following generation, the "Caravaggisti" or "Shadowists".