Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was among the great artists of the Baroque period of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Considered one of the founders of modern painting, he is famous for creating a radically new kind of realistic art. He painted directly from life, without preparatory drawings, to establish a high realism in his work and a powerful and stark psychological expressiveness in his protagonists. His paintings defied conventions to such a degree that their meanings have divided critics and viewers for centuries, while inspiring generations of subsequent artists from Velázquez to Rembrandt.
In this highly original study Troy Thomas examines Caravaggio’s life and art in relation to his most profound achievement: the creation of modernity. He explicitly focuses on the inherent tensions, contradictions and ambiguities in Caravaggio’s art – key areas often ignored by other experts. Structured thematically and chronologically, the book begins with an in-depth look at the artist’s early life and works, which establish and refine his realism, his dark settings and his subtle and clever ambiguity of genre and meaning. It describes his mature religious works that eschew the theatrical stock poses and expressions of past art. Lastly, it delves into the artist’s final hectic years as Caravaggio wandered from city to city in southern Italy, avoiding the papal police after a sword fight on the streets of Rome. Illustrated with sumptuous colour photographs, Caravaggio and the Creation of Modernity will appeal to all those fascinated by the history of art and the work of this great Renaissance artist.
‘[This book] is carefully designed as a forceful and concise statement on the artist’s innovations . . . There’s much more to say about this excellent book and Thomas offers daring interpretations on almost every page . . . Moments such as these underline both Thomas’s skill as a historian and Caravaggio’s towering genius.’ – Popmatters
‘This is not a typical chronological overview of the artist’s life or a catalog of his works. Rather, the book is thematically conceived . . . This clever format allows Troy to continually circle back to previously discussed paintings but under different terms . . . this affordable book is a fitting complement to more traditional studies; it will help the reader better understand Caravaggio’s importance to artistic modernity and the history of art in general.’ – Choice
‘Troy Thomas’ excellent new book provides an accessible but sophisticated examination of Caravaggio as an artist, focusing in particular on his mature Roman paintings. Building on previous scholarship and also offering some intriguing new interpretations of Caravaggio’s remarkable pictures, Thomas argues that the ambiguity of the artist’s approach to his subjects, along with his novel realism, psychological penetration, and dynamic immediacy, make Caravaggio a truly modern artist. Filled with interesting observations about Caravaggio’s pictures, this book examines Caravaggio’s uncomfortably human questioning of faith in his religious pictures, while situating the artist in the context of his time and arguing for the unprecedented modernity of his creations.’ – Dr. Babette Bohn, Professor of Art History, Texas Christian University
‘Troy Thomas presents an insightful, well written overview of the life and art of this fascinating painter. His examination of Caravaggio's radical style, eccentric persona, and ambiguous religious works against the background of cultural developments during the Counter-Reformation provides a fresh view of the artist’s originality and continuing influence.’ – Wendy Wassyng Roworth, Professor Emerita of Art History, University of Rhode Island
Troy Thomas is Associate Professor of Humanities and Art History at Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. He regularly writes and lectures on Italian Renaissance art, Italian Baroque art and art theory.