Caravaggio in Our Time

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 160
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 1604–1605, The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Trust (photo courtesy of The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, by Jamison Miller)

J. Patrice Marandel writes about the contemporary appeal of the paintings of Caravaggio, on the occasion of the exhibition Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), on view from November 11, 2012–February 10, 2013.

Marandel writes that Caravaggio's "paintings captivate and engage us in a way few others from that period do. Suddenly, a painter of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries seems to speak our language, share our passions. Even if the subjects he represents do not stray from the classical canon of religious iconography, his models are clearly made of our flesh and of our blood. He is, in other words, a painter of our time. This is also how his contemporaries reacted to his works and this is also why, no matter how successful and influential he was, his paintings ultimately went out of style and were to a large extent forgotten... One thing is certain: the beauty of his compositions struck his contemporaries as it still strikes us today. That beauty is owed essentially to the surprising ability of his paintings to create within the spectator a sense of expectation. Whether looking at a Caravaggio portrait or religious composition, the viewer is made aware of an immediacy seldom experienced until then in painting."