Caravaggio reject the Classical masters, religion, and the lengthy preparations traditional in the art of central Italy. Instead, he preferred to paint secularized versions of the Classics and religious figures and events. He humanizes his work and uses oils directly from the subject (half-length figures and still life) which made his methods represent a defiant individualism in his work compared with his contemporaries. He wanted to paint the truth and was often critically labeled a naturalist in condemnation.
Caravaggio’s The Conversion of St. Paul is a good example of all of the above. Instead of a Classical interpretation of this significant spiritual event, Caravaggio portrays St. Paul flat on his back with his arms stretched up toward heaven. He appears to have fallen off his horse which is being lead away by an old ostler. In comparison to Classical religious works which feature the main religious figure, in Caravaggio’s depiction of this event the horse is featured as if he were the main subject of the piece. We see the sharp contrasts of dark and light representative of Caravaggio, in addition to his use of what is called tenebroso or the dark manner “It is another mode of Baroque illusionism by which the eye is almost forced to acknowledge the visual reality of what it sees” (De La Croix and Tansey 727).
The works of Caravaggio were instrumental in influencing the works of Vermeer and Rembrandt. Rembrandt’s use of light and dark are not stark in contrast. Instead, in works like Supper at Emmaus, The Return of the Prodigal Son, and Self-Portrait, we are able to see how the master uses light and dark in a more harmonious balance than his predecessors. In these paintings, light and dark are brought into harmony, softly merged and used to produce a sense of calm and contemplation. In other words, Rembrandt uses light and dark to equate to an aural quality – that of quietude.
The lack of formali...