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Giuseppe Maria Crespi

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Giuseppe Maria Crespi
18th-century Bolognese
(Bologna, Italy, 1665 - 1747, Bologna, Italy)

Crespi was perhaps the greatest individualist of the Late Baroque, as well as one of the most original realists in European painting. In one sense, his style is proto-Romantic, based upon a rejection of academic training and predictable, arid style it was engendering. In another sense, it represents a conscious return to the naturalistic light, authentic feeling, and expressive touch of the early Baroque, especially of his Bolognese precursor Guercino. In Crespi’s interpretation of religious and mythological subjects there is a striking eccentricity, almost a willed naiveté, that is seconded by the distinctiveness of his pearlescent light and textured handling. And unique are his choice, psychological penetration, and artistic dignifying of genre subjects. Their realism has a context in the taste of a fading nobility and remote bourgeoisie for their opposite. But Crespi is often so unstylized, acute in observation, and idiosyncratic in paint handling that these works anticipate significant aspects of 19th-century painting.

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