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Caravaggio at San Anton School


Throughout the past year, the 400th since his visit to our shores, Caravaggio was placed firmly in the limelight of the local Art scene. We were treated to a number of exhibitions, not only of the artist’s own paintings but also of works by local artists, inspired by the great painter. Heritage Malta showed important initiative in their exhibition, namely “Il Divino d’Immagine”, in that they worked towards involving School children, with workbooks and special guides at hand to answer any questions the students might have had.

Being a great admirer of Caravaggio, and having already involved her art students in a Caravaggio-related project with the “Caravaggio - La Mostra Impossible” exhibition in 2004 to very positive results, Alison Zammit Endrich – Head of the Art Department grasped the opportunity to also celebrate Caravaggio’s 400th anniversary at San Anton School.

The Grade 10s (Form 3 students) first learnt how they could use coloured pencils to great effect. They then used these new-found skills to copy their favourite details from Caravaggio paintings, working with black paper to create the dark, dramatic atmosphere that one so often associates with the artist’s work.

These same students delved deeper into this Baroque world as they brought these famous paintings to life as models in photographic reproductions of The Beheading of St. John, The Deposition of Christ, The Raising of Lazarus, The Death of the Virgin Mary and The Doubting Thomas. Caravaggio was made more tangible to the students as the activity helped them to understand his desire for realism in his art, as well as for the creation of dramatic compositions through use of the chiaroscuro technique that make his works so instantly recognisable. The students’ own appreciation for the artist grew, and after studying his paintings so intently, and attempting to imitate the variety of facial expressions of Caravaggio’s characters, they also had the opportunity to create their own compositions.

The Grade 11s (From 4 students) faced a different challenge in preparation for their Caravaggio assignment: mastering the acrylic painting techniques of colour mixing and blending. Classes on Art Appreciation taught the students about the Expressionist movement; how artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch and Frans Marc expressed their emotions through their use of colour. “I thought an interesting exercise would be to reinterpret Caravaggio in an Expressionist style, where students were asked to try to capture the emotions communicated in the paintings they chose. The result: a vibrant display and an experience of how the gaps between different periods, and indeed different movements, in art can be bridged.” Commented Ms Zammit Endrich

The Grade 12 (Form 5) students first exercise in Caravaggism was a still life of geometric shapes painted in chiaroscuro. This examination of Caravaggio’s powerful lighting effect was developed as the students copied some of the various details from his paintings that showcase this particular technique.

The exhibition was completed with the invitation made to two former San Anton students to participate in this open day with the addition of their own MATSEC Advanced Level art projects that were directly related to Caravaggio and the Caravaggisti as sources of painterly inspiration. “In this way the current students were able to not only appreciate the powerful effects their own artwork can produce, but also to look beyond the present, towards the possibilities for artistic development that lie before them” concluded Ms Zammit Endrich

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