Caravaggism in Interior Design
As a Design Studio we find inspiration in everything that surrounds us and this month we were particularly inspired by one of art’s most influential and revolutionary figures; Caravaggio.
Until January you can see “Beyond Caravaggio” at the National Gallery, an exhibition that celebrates the influence that the artist had in the world of art. With his naturalistic approach to painting, as well as the way he makes the observer part of the narrative and the dramatic use of the lighting effect “chiaroscuro”, the 16th Century Baroque painter created a new “Caravaggesque” style and a legion of followers in the 17th Century. Whilst his peers clearly recognised his influence at the time, only in the 20th Century was his work fully appreciated when rediscovered as an important presence in the development of Western art, with his influence extending beyond painting to the worlds of cinema and television.
In this exhibition, even though it only has six paintings by the artist himself, the essence of Caravaggio is celebrated more than ever and is truly a homage to his legacy. It is well known that Caravaggio disapproved of other artists using his techniques and mimicking his own work but one can only believe that if he could see this exhibition himself, he would truly look proudly on it.
As an Interior Design Studio we can’t help but look at artists’ techniques and see how unconsciously we apply these principles ourselves every day in our projects. A little like the Yin and Yang principle that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, Caravaggio’s technique of chiaroscuro uses light and dark to create an atmosphere and applies drama to highlight actions within a scene. As Interior Designers we apply the same principles through the use of lighting and
shadows, materials and even colour, or the absence of it when using a black and white scheme.
Just like in Old Master Paintings, lighting schemes are important because they can set the scene for a project or simply emphasise architectural features or special pieces that need to be brought to focus – or indeed to light. The use of special materials such as specialist finishes or beautiful dramatic marble can apply the same dramatic effect that Caravaggio used, by highlighting areas within a space and therefore bringing the focus to determinate elements.
In one of our most recent projects for example, Ashberg House, there is a noticeable balance of masculine and feminine elements, with these techniques used to highlight areas within the project. The swimming pool with its monochromatic scheme is a perfect example of dramatic atmosphere created by the use of light and dark, achieved here by the combination of light limestone and polished plater, contrasted with a Brazilian black slate feature wall and dark deep blue tiles submersed in water.
So when looking for inspiration to design your own house just remember that you can find inspiration everywhere, even in the 16th Century – in Caravaggio, and beyond.
Filipa Santos, Junior Designer
Fig.1 Beyond Caravaggio, The National Gallery
Fig.2 Paintings by Caravaggio, on display in ‘Beyond Caravaggio’ at The National Gallery
Fig.3 Swimming Pool, Ashberg House, Chelsea
Fig.4 Chiaroscuro lighting effect on chess pieces
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