Friday, 18 April 2014

On Caravaggio As (Like Duchamp) An Artist of Time


The narrator of my novel is an obsessive-compulsive guy named Isaac. Among a few other quirks, he is a devoted admirer of the Italian pre-Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, now known most commonly just as Caravaggio, which is where he was from. Caravaggio was a master of chiaroscuro, painting which relies upon a strong contrast between light and dark. He arguably moved art toward modernity in a couple of ways, one of which is illustrated in this (c. 1595) painting, Boy Bitten By A Lizard. In an excellent little book on Caravaggio, Lambert (2000, p. 32) wrote of this painting that it "is a revolution in itself, marking the advent of the instantaneous in painting" (though also noting its inspiration in Sofonisba Anguissola's c. 1554 drawing Portrait of Her Son Asdrubale Bitten by a Crayfish, drawn for the more famous Michelangelo). This focus on time in painting allows us, perhaps, to draw a direct line between Caravaggio and Marcel Duchamp, whose (1912) Nude Descending A Staircase #2 deconstructed time into instantaneous pieces and then put them back together again. [On time and Duchamp, see also this post and this post.]

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