Salvator Rosa

Salvator Rosa
Italian Baroque painter Salvator Rosa was known for his romantic (“sublime”) landscapes, battle scenes and marine paintings, as well as religious, allegorical and history paintings. He was also known as a rebel and free thinker, restless in his pursuit of intellectual and artistic exploration.

Rosa was born and studied in Naples, though he studied for a time in Rome, and was strongly influenced by the Spanish painter José de Ribera.

He considered his marine and landscape paintings as less serious and important than his later religious and historical paintings, but they served him well in his early days of financial struggle, and are looked on more highly in retrospect as innovative for his time.

Rosa’s landscapes were among the first considered “romantic”. In them he pursued exaggerated views of craggy rocks, monumental ruins, overgrown wilderness, windswept mountains and dark caves, as well as picturesque scenes of shepherds on rugged hillsides and wild scenes of sailors, thieves and bandits. He also created works of brooding and dramatic allegory, often with macabre and horror tinged subjects.

He used deep chiaroscuro, dark but rich color and expressive brushwork to create his tempestuous dramas and haunting vistas.

Rosa is believed to have been influential on many landscape painters who followed, including the British Romantic painters and J.W.M. Turner.

In addition to painting, Rosa was a printmaker, poet, writer, musician and comic actor.

While in Rome he became friends with Pietro Testa and pioneering landscape artist Claude Lorraine. He was encouraged to leave Rome when his practice of comic acting made him enemies as well as admirers by satirizing the great sculptor, and powerful local figure, Bernini.

He found a warmer climate in Florence for several years, and returned to Naples for a time, but eventually returned to Rome and settled there, though his dealings with the arts establishment there remained unsettled and rife with controversy, including accusations of plagiarism for his satires (unfounded) and radical intellectual views that brought him under the unfavorable eye of the Inquisition.

There is an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, Salvator Rosa (1615 – 1673): Bandits, Wilderness and Magic that is on view until November 28, 2010 and promises to be a major review of his work. The page for the exhibit only features a few images. There is a pagefor a video lecture about the exhibit, though I have so far been unable to get it to load successfully. There is a review of the exhibit on the Guardian.

I’ve listed some other resources below. You may have to dig a bit for the best work.

Rosa was a libertine, eccentric and free thinker, and associated with many of the scientific, philosophical and literary figures of his day. Many of his works bring their thought into light, exploring science and rationality as well as imagination, magic and the mystery and power of nature.