August 12, 2011

There are a dozen artworks currently in our country that changed the world of art. I’m speaking of the Caravaggio exhibition at the National Gallery in Ottawa. This is a first. Well, the last time there were this many pieces by the Italian master on the continent was back in the early eighties at the Metropolitan in New York. In fact, that show had twice as many pieces than the current show in Ottawa. Nonetheless, this show is a once in a lifetime blockbuster. Rare squared!  

Caravaggio and his Followers in Rome hones-in on key Caravaggio pieces and spins off with the impact that he made on his contemporaries and beyond. The show is comprehensive in gauging this seventeenth century maverick and his revolutionary style. If you’ve seen the show, I’d love to hear some of your impressions… here are some of mine:

  • I was surprised to learn that Rome in Caravaggio’s day was about the size of  Whitby with a population just over 100,000
  • there are a mere 70 known works authored by Caravaggio
  • a small exhibition design critique—the paintings are hung too high for the average viewer, not too mention kids, people in wheelchairs, etc.
  • a large exhibition design accolade—excellent interpretive resources such as a “tableau vivant” room where you can get your picture taken dressed up in period costumes, a screening room running a documentary about Caravaggio, short and informative docent talks, an amazing brochure, etc.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi’s The Beheading of Holofernes (painted exactly 400 years ago) was a sparkling highlight—a bloody mess!
  • Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers a major exhibition sponsor–how fitting for an oil painting show?
St. Francis in Ecstasy (1595) currently at the NGC
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