Corps et ombres. Caravage et le caravagisme européen

Présentée aux deux étapes en France et aux deux aux Etats-Unis dans le cadre de FRAME, du juin 2012 au juin 2013: plus que 425,000 visiteurs l'ont vu

Le Programme d'exposition

  • Musée Fabre, Montpellier

    23 juin 2012 - 14 octobre 2012
  • Musée des Augustins, Toulouse

    23 juin 2012 - 14 octobre 2012
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art

    11 novembre 2012 - 10 fvrier 2013
  • Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford

    6 mars 2013 - 16 juin 2013

Originaire de Lombardie, Michelangelo Merisi, dit Caravage (Caravaggio) (1571-1610), a révolutionné la peinture de son temps, au tournant des 16e et 17e siècles, en s’éloignant délibérément du maniérisme ambiant pour privilégier une vision réaliste de l’homme. Composé de nombreux artistes de personnalités et d’origines différentes, le caravagisme connaît une multitude de facettes que l’exposition s’attachera à décrypter en tenant compte des récents travaux scientifiques en rapport avec le sujet. Elle démontrera aussi le retentissement du système de représentation élaboré par Caravage sur des expressions esthétiques généralement distinguées de ce grand courant artistique. Tout en mettant en avant l’art de grandes personnalités européennes influencées par le Caravage, l’exposition s’attachera aussi aux aspects les plus obscurs de cette école de façon à en donner une image nouvelle et parfois inattendue. Cet événement débutera à l’été 2012 avec le caravagisme italien, français et espagnol au musée Fabre (Montpellier) et le caravagisme nordique simultanément au musée des Augustins (Toulouse). Une version condensée de l’exposition est présentée au Los Angeles County Museum of Art et achèvera son parcours au Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, à Hartford.

Michelangelo Merisi da Carvaggio; Saint Francis in Ecstasy, c. 1594; Oil on canvas, 36 3/8" x 50 1/4"; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Caitlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1943.222

Carlo Saraceni (Italy, Venice, 1579 - 1620), The Martyrdom of St. Cecilia, circa 1610, Painting, Oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 38 3/4 in. (135.89 x 98.425 cm). Gift of The Ahmanson Foundation (AC1996.37.1), Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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But what was to make Caravaggio, despite his short career, most notable was turning his brilliant close-up realism and use of dramatic lighting to religious compositions. The lives and suffering of the saints took on new meaning and was given great spirituality, which reflected the Counter-Reformation trend of humanizing the saintly and divine personages. As Helen Langdon has written, “Never before had an artist presented religious drama as contemporary life ... Nor had any earlier painter dared to break so dramatically with long established studio traditions, painting his figures from nature, directly onto the canvas, with complex effects of studio lighting. It was the figures having been painted from life that most fascinated Caravaggio’s contemporaries.”

Unfortunately, along with Caravaggio’s artistic genius went a violent temperament. He had several run-ins with the law and finally in a fight killed a man who worked for the Pope, thus forcing him to flee the city in fear of his life. Caravaggio subsequently spent time in Naples, Malta, and Sicily causing disruption wherever he went. He did, however, continue to paint remarkable portraits and religious compositions and was on his way back to Rome to receive a papal pardon when he died at age 39 in 1610 probably of malaria.

Caravaggio’s impact throughout Europe, much of it at second hand, is one of the most remarkable features of 17th-century art. (The term ‘Caravaggisti’ is applied to painters – both Italian and from other countries – who imitated or were influenced by his style and subject matter.) No one artist understood or absorbed the totality of his conception, but each took an aspect of his art that personally appealed to them. This exhibition will present an overview of these many diverse artists with many examples that have never before been brought together.

In Rome Caravaggio’s influence was immediate – first on paintings of still life (such as those by the so-called Master of the Hartford Still Life and the also unidentified Pensionante del Saraceni. But even more important was his figural style, which through the 1620s made a powerful influence on a number of painters active in Rome, such as Baglione, Manfredi, Saraceni and Orazio Gentileschi, all of whom will be represented. So strong was the impact of this dramatic style that a number of other artists from Bologna, Genoa, and Naples for a time produced works that clearly reflect Caravaggio’s impact. In the exhibition there will be notable examples by Guercino, Francesco del Cairo, Cagnacci, Strozzi, Assereto, and Luca Giordano.

However, since Rome was the leading cultural center of the Western world at this time, many foreign artists who came to the eternal city were also struck by the innovations of Caravaggio’s manner and incorporated it into the works they produced there and often later in their careers across Europe. Coming from Spain, José Ribera worked in both Rome and Naples painting earthy types clearly inspired by Caravaggio. From France a wide circle of artists including Valentin de Boulogne, Claude Vignon, Nicolas Tournier, and Simon Vouet all adapted Caravaggesque elements for their grand religious and genre compositions. Then from Northern Europe – Flanders and Holland – there were a good many painters who took up Caravaggio’s theatrical use of brilliant light effects. One group of such artists came from the Catholic city of Utrecht and numbered among its members Hendrick ter Brugghen, Gerrit van Honthorst, and Dirck van Baburen. Independent masters of note from the north also included Michael Sweerts, Abraham Janssens, Theodor Rombouts, Jan Cossiers, and Artus Wolffort.

Finally there were several great 17th century European artists, who may not have come to Rome to see Caravaggio’s works, but knew of them through copies and prints and integrated his original approach into their own. Among these masters, to be represented in the exhibition, are the major Spanish painters Velazquez and Zurbarán and from Lorraine, Georges de la Tour, who perfected perhaps the most personal and poetic interpretation of the Carravagistic style.

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art the proposed exhibition will consist of about fifty-five paintings. The exhibition will be divided into sections reflecting Caravaggio and his immediate followers; the Carravagistic influence on other Italian and French artists, the Neapolitan and Spanish followers, the Northern followers, and finally the great independents, with emphasis on costume and theatrical pieces. Thus this exhibition will present a remarkable cross section of genre, portraiture, history subjects and especially haunting religious scenes that show Caravaggio’s style in multiple permutations by a range of talented artists. Certain key themes such as card players, musicians, banquets, violence, St. Francis, St. Sebastian, the Last Supper, the Denial of St. Peter, and the treatment of male and female nudes will allow for cross referencing of works in the exhibition with originals created by Caravaggio. The paintings will come from not only well known American museums in Los Angeles, Detroit, Kansas City, and Minneapolis but also from much less familiar French ones in Caen, Douai, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Marseille, many of them to be seen for the first time in America.