Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Caravaggio at the National Art Gallery

V and I went out tonight on an anniversary date (a few days early). Since we are members of the National Art Gallery – along with nearly every other museum in town – we took advantage of their ‘members only’ evening which included a screening of the Caravaggio exhibit featuring more than 40 paintings by Caravaggio and other painters inspired by him. This is the first time Caravaggio’s paintings have been shown outside of Italy.

I learned tonight that Caravaggio was an Italian artist who “changed the course of art history” by becoming one of the first painters to combine dramatic pose and expression with naturalist lighting and details.

The paintings were all very bold and much larger than life. Expressions, postures and gestures were dramatic. Many of the images dealt with emotionally-charged subjects, such as Judith beheading Holofernes. Interesting, in a few cases several paintings addressing the same subject were hung side by side so that we could see how different artists depicted the same subject as their contemporaries. One might focus on the physicality of the act, another on the vulnerability. A little gruesome, but still interesting.

But V and I didn’t actually stay a long time at the gallery. We likened our tour of the Caravaggio exhibit to a heavy Italian dinner of rich sauces and hearty pasta. One fills up quickly and doesn’t have room for more.

After half an hour among the dramatic paintings of Caravaggio and his followers, I was full.

This is one of the nice things about having memberships at galleries. If I pay a one-time admission to a gallery or museum, I feel an obligation to make the most of it and visit as much as possible, even after I have passed the point of absorbing what I am seeing. But when a gallery is free, or if I have a membership, I enjoy passing through and staying long enough to be inspired, but not so long that my eyes glaze over.

Tonight was a perfect example of how I love using our membership. We strolled through the exhibit at our leisure and when we were sated we headed out for drinks and dinner. A lovely anniversary date.

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