Caravaggio (1571–1610) was an Italian painter known for his dramatic use of chiaroscuro (the contrast between light and dark) and a naturalistic approach to painting that challenged the norms of the Renaissance. His paintings of religious, mythological, and historical subjects are considered among the most influential of the Baroque period.
Caravaggio was born Michelangelo Merisi in the small town of Caravaggio, Italy in 1571. His father, Fermo Merisi, was a household administrator and sculptor who worked for the Marquis of Caravaggio. His mother, Lucia Aratori, was a clothing and textile merchant. Caravaggio's artistic career began at an early age when he was apprenticed to the Milanese painter Simone Peterzano. He moved to Rome in 1592 and, three years later, joined the workshop of the renowned painter, Giuseppe Cesari.
Caravaggio's distinctive style of painting, often referred to as "naturalism," was characterized by a bold use of chiaroscuro, or the effect of light and dark, to create dramatic scenes of religious, mythological, and historical subjects. He was also known for his use of tenebrism, a technique that featured a single, strong light source to illuminate a single figure or group, while leaving the rest of the painting in darkness.
Caravaggio's work was highly controversial and often criticized by the Church and its supporters. His paintings were seen to be too theatrical, too sensual, and too realistic. This disapproval, however, did not prevent him from becoming one of the most influential artists of the period. His works influenced the development of Baroque painting, inspiring artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Jusepe de Ribera.
Caravaggio's life was as turbulent as his paintings. He was a notorious brawler and was arrested and imprisoned multiple times. He was also involved in a number of violent disputes, including a notorious incident in which he killed a man. He fled Rome in 1606 and spent the last four years of his life in exile, mainly in Naples, where he continued to paint until his death in 1610.
The legacy of Caravaggio's work continues to this day. His paintings have been admired and studied by generations of artists and art historians, and his influence can be seen in the works of many modern painters. He is considered one of the most important painters in the history of art and his works remain some of the most iconic and beloved paintings of all time.