A Short History of Painting - an excerpt.
Michelangelo Merisi di Caravaggio (1571-1610)
Caravaggio was painter unto himself. While he painted religious works for the church and pornographic putti for the Cardinal Francesco del Monte he never compromised on the reality of his models. If they had dirty feet when he hired them off the street then they had dirty feet in the paintings. In chiascuro, a technique of singular lighting which he took as his own, his realism was stark.
Caravaggio carried Realism to its ultimate conclusion. Painting out of Rome he affected the whole western world of painting so much so that he was the object of many visits from painters in the Low Countries.
Unfortunately he was neither a nice nor kindly man. He was imprisoned five times and eventually had to flee the arms of law for a murder committed while carousing in a bar. Yet his painting surpassed anything painted before, or, if we are honest, since. Many painters owe their reputation to Caravaggio even though he ran no workshop.
The painting above showing Saul’s conversion focuses on the horse, which played a large part in the event, since Saul fell off it. No one but Caravaggio would have seen this episode with so much reality.
The search for Realism had been ongoing for three hundred years by the time Caravaggio sealed the accomplishment in the early 17th Century.
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