Annibale Carracci is the founder of the Baroque style

Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne (1598-1601)
Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne (1598-1601)

Founder of the Baroque style and a worthy successor to the traditions of the Renaissance in Italian painting

Annibale Carracci an outstanding Italian artist of the second half of the 16th early 17th centuries, a master of religious, portrait, landscape, everyday and mythological genres. Annibale Carracci’s paintings are distinguished by their richness of color, and the traditions of painting of the Late Renaissance are clearly visible in his work. The artist’s biography contains a lot of worthy examples of selfless service to art, and many of his students have achieved noticeable success in painting.

Annibale Carracci, along with Caravaggio and Peter Paul Rubens, is rightfully considered one of the founders of the Baroque style in the visual arts. The artist’s creative heritage also includes a huge number of unique drawings, prints and caricatures of his contemporaries.

Rest on the flight to Egypt
Rest on the flight to Egypt

Biography of Annibale Carracci

Annibale Carracci was born on November 3, 1560 in Bologna in the family of a tailor. His father, shortly before the birth of his son, along with his butcher brother, moved to this city from Verona. Unfortunately, no reliable data has been preserved regarding where the future artist studied the basics of painting. Most historians tend to consider Carracci’s first teacher his cousin, Ludovico Carracci, who was 5 years older.

Already in 1582, Annibale, together with Ludovico and his brother Agostino (Agostino Carracci), opened a studio of artists in Bologna, which at first was called the Academy of Desiderosi (thirsty for fame and education), and later was renamed the Academy of Incamminati (discoverers of the new path). At its core, it was an ordinary private school, but the education system in it was significantly different from similar institutions. The founders of the Academy paid great attention to the study of the work of the great masters of the Renaissance and deliberately refused to teach students in the mannerism style that dominated Italian painting at that time.

Mocking of Christ, c. 1596, oil on canvas, 69.5-60 cm Pinacoteca Nazionale
Mocking of Christ, c. 1596, oil on canvas, 69.5-60 cm Pinacoteca Nazionale

Annibale Carracci’s first independent work as a painter dates back to 1583.

It is a painting of an altar depicting the Crucifixion and Saints for the Bologna Church of San Nicolo. In the early period of his work, the artist also often turned to the genre of everyday life, and his paintings on this topic are distinguished by the unique realism of the characters.

In addition, Annibale has repeatedly carried out joint orders with the brothers Ludovico and Agostino. The three of them often created fresco paintings in the halls of the palaces of the local nobility. Despite the fact that Annibale was the youngest, very soon he became the most famous and sought-after artist by the name of Carracci. In the 1580s, the young painter made several trips to Italy to get to know more about the work of the old masters. The young man visited Parma, and then Venice, after which he lived for several years in Emilia-Romagna, where he completed several large orders.

Martyrdom of St. Stephen, 1603
Martyrdom of St. Stephen, 1603
Farnese Gallery

Upon his return to Bologna, Annibale Carracci continued to pursue fresco and easel painting, but he soon received an invitation to come to Rome from the powerful Cardinal Odoardo Farnese. In the capital, he had to fulfill the most famous order of his career to decorate with frescoes the first floor of the Cardinal’s Palace “Gallery Farnese”.

In total, work on this order lasted more than 10 years, and together with Annibale his brother Agostino and many students of the Incamminati School worked. Despite being very busy, the artist also found time to paint religious paintings and landscapes, create engravings, and even tried to draw caricatures.

Annibale Carracci, The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine, 1585-1587, масло, холст. National Museum of Capodimonte
The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine, 1585-1587, масло, холст. National Museum of Capodimonte

Excessive workload negatively affected the mental state of the master. According to contemporaries, in 1605 he fell into a deep depression, from which he could not recover. Mental suffering Carracci not only became the reason for the refusal of active artistic activity, but also affected his physical health. Despite the efforts of doctors, the painter gradually faded away and soon completely lost interest in life.

By the end of his life, the artist, who had moved away from relatives and friends, was on the verge of poverty and this was the last blow of fate. On July 15, 1609, Annibale Carracci died in Rome, and the reliable reasons for his death have not been established. In accordance with the will, the great master was buried in the Pantheon, next to the grave of his idol Rafael (Raffaello Santi).

Annibale Carracci, Self-portrait with three figures
Self-portrait with three figures
The most famous paintings by Annibale Carracci

Many of the master’s works during his lifetime were recognized as outstanding masterpieces. The creative heritage of the master includes a huge number of works. The most famous paintings by Annibale Carracci include:

  • The Crucifixion and the Saints (1583) is the artist’s first independent work, which brought him wide fame. Contrary to the traditions of mannerism, the characters of the picture are painted in a pronounced realistic manner, unusual for the painting of that era.
  • The Bean Eater (1584-1585) is the most famous work of the everyday genre. The hero of the picture is depicted as taken by surprise by an outside observer, and his face expresses sincere surprise at this fact.
  • “Landscape with Flight to Egypt” (1602-1604) is a masterpiece that for many years became an example of the landscape genre in European painting. This work was highly regarded by prominent landscape masters of subsequent eras, including Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain.
  • “Frescoes of the Farnese Gallery” (1597-1607) is a grandiose monumental work of the master, the pinnacle of his work. Through the efforts of the artist and his assistants, the huge room of the palace measuring 20x10x6.5 meters was decorated with unique paintings on biblical and mythological themes.

Annibale Carracci left a bright mark on world art. He presented his descendants with a huge number of wonderful works, which still inspire admiration among the audience. And numerous students of the master successfully continued his work, although they did not manage to reach the level of fame of their teacher.

Annibale Carracci. Adoration of the shepherds
Adoration of the shepherds
Annibale Carracci. Baptism of Christ, 1584. San Gregorio
Baptism of Christ, 1584. San Gregorio
Annibale Carracci. Bean lover
Bean lover
Annibale Carracci. Christ and the Samaritan Woman, 1593-94
Christ and the Samaritan Woman, 1593-94
Annibale Carracci. Christ Wearing the Crown of Thorns, Supported by Angels. 1585 – 1587. Gemaldegalerie
Christ Wearing the Crown of Thorns, Supported by Angels. 1585 – 1587. Gemaldegalerie
Flight to Egypt, 1603
Flight to Egypt, 1603
Heroic landscape
Heroic landscape
Holy Women at Christ’ s Tomb, 1590. The Hermitage
Holy Women at Christ’ s Tomb, 1590. The Hermitage
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