Sunday, August 30, 2009

From Caravaggio to Yeats

Friday the 28th I visited the National Gallery in Dublin. The gallery itself seemed to have previously been used as a home of some stately person; however, I asked and found out it was created solely as a gallery. Some of the rooms had fireplaces and there was even a grand ballroom so you can see why I thought this. On display in the gallery were two things I took particular interest in. First was the Caravaggio room and second was the display of paintings by Jack Butler Yeats (brother to poet William Butler Yeats).

In the Caravaggio room was actually only one painting by the Italian painter. He was famous mostly for his use of light and dark contrasts and creating a very realistic and theatrical appeal called naturalism. In the room surrounding the original were other artists who had attempted to copy the style he used. I was told to view the others before viewing the Caravaggio. It did make a difference. While many of the paintings in the room were good (way better than I could ever hope to paint) they obviously fell down at the feet of the master. I liked only having one Caravaggio in the room though. Unlike in the Prada of Madrid where a whole hall is dedicated to the man, the single painting was less overwhelming. I could sit on the bench and study and admire the work with less constraint. Sitting on the bench in the gallery I felt a little like I should be looking for the briefcase I half expect to be under the bench thanks to one of my favorite films "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1999).

If you look closely you can see emotion and symbolism in the depiction of Judas's betrayal of Jesus. The painting is called "The Taking of Christ". On the far right is a self portrait of Caravaggio himself holding the lantern. The difference in the amount of light and skin tones between Jesus and Judas are interesting to note as well as the technique of calling attention with a specific glint of light. In this case it is the shine of the soldiers armor that called attention to the piece and lays the painting out from that point. No painting is as good in a picture as it is in person. This is especially true with the second artist I mentioned - Jack Butler Yeats.

The paintings here were done later on in Yeats career. I don't know much about him, but I loved many of his paintings simply for the fact that he used a lot of color and they kept me guessing - almost like the magic eye pictures, but a little more obvious. At different distances you could see different images take shape. My two favorite paintings I could not find images of, but I liked these two seen here as well.

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