Caravaggio at Getty Center

The Getty Center

The Getty Center in Los Angeles is one of the most awe-inspiring places to visit. I often bring visitors to show them the incredible views, and the train ride up the hill to the museum’s entrance always feels like a pilgrimage to a temple of antiquity. The surrounding gardens are lush and well-maintained and offer breathtaking views of the city. Inside the museum is an incredible array of artwork, from ancient sculptures to modern photographs and everything in between.

There is something special about certain works of art that makes them timeless when I see them many times over the years. For me, one piece that has come to feel like an old friend is Spring, a painting by Lawrence Alma Tadama. Rendered in 1891, this stunning piece of realism depicts a bustling rural landscape with a few notable people in the foreground. Alma Tadama captures a sense of vitality and youthful energy.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

The Getty Center in Los Angeles is currently hosting an exhibition of three Caravaggio paintings. His paintings were revolutionary for their time, combining the classical traditions of Renaissance art with a new naturalism that sought to capture the striking realism of everyday life. His work was revolutionary, particularly in religious painting, where he portrayed a more humanistic representation of saints. He used ordinary people, including beggars and prostitutes, as the model for the saints. Caravaggio was a master of chiaroscuro, or the play between light and darkness, much like his life, which was known for his wild lifestyle, often involving duels and other illegal activities. On the run from the law, he used his painting skills to obtain favor from prominent Italian nobles, which ultimately saved him from prison, but not from death.

Caravaggio’s influence is evident in other great painters. His approach to portraiture has had a lasting impact on art, particularly on the painting of saints, which made me think about the notion of appropriation and how we all, consciously or not, are doing it in one way or another.

Appropriation is an interesting concept; it is something we come across in everyday life. We constantly absorb different bits and pieces of culture and make them our own. We appropriate ideas and works of art, music, and literature and use them to our benefit. Some people do this intentionally, while others may do it without even realizing it. This concept of appropriation has been present for centuries, with cultures borrowing from one another and evolving as a result.

And maybe the greatest gift of this visit was noticing a new angle, a new intricate detail, or a new unique point of view of this marvelous white architectural complex nested high above the city.

January 2018