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‘High art from low life’

Brendan Staunton SJ and Piaras Jackson SJ attended the opening of  the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition now running in the National Gallery of Ireland. The Jesuits have given Caravaggio’s ‘The Taking of Christ’ to the National Gallery on indefinite loan and it is one of over forty pictures on exhibit by Caravaggio and his followers.

Brendan Staunton is a psychotherapist with a keen interest in the relationship between art and psychotherapy. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications he talks about the pivotal role Caravaggio played in bridging the gap between renaissance and modern art.

He describes how Caravaggio rejected the artistic conventions he inherited, by portraying real people from real life – often real ‘low life’ – as main characters in his paintings. And he explains how Caravaggio draws the spectator into his work by his use of light and shade, well placed symbols like the fish, and energetic characters whose sudden movement startles the onlookers so they cannot remain mere passive observers.

He also tells the remarkable story of how ‘The Taking of Christ’ was found to be an authentic Caravaggio, having hung unrecognised  for many years in the refectory of a Jesuit community house in Leeson St, Dublin.

The Beyond Caravaggio exhibition began in London and will move to Edinburgh after its time in Dublin which ends 4 May. It was reviewed enthusiastically my Marie Louise O’ Donnell on the Today  With Sean O’Rourke programme on RTE Radio 1, Tuesday 14 February (48 minutes into the programme). It is also proving very popular with the public according the the National Gallery who advise booking in advance for those who wish to visit the exhibition.