At the turn of the 17th century two artists in Rome created new styles that were to affect the future of painting across Europe. Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio based their art on a return to the study of nature, rejecting the elegant artificiality of their Mannerist predecessors. Both sought a truer expression of the 'affetti', the passions of the soul, in bold, animated compositions with figures of unprecedented presence and vitality.
Annibale believed that the idealisation of nature was essential to making art and created a new classical style. Caravaggio, meanwhile, introduced a potent naturalism to religious and mythological painting, making the subject matter seem contemporary. Their legacies can be seen in the dynamic compositions, dramatic lighting, vivid use of colour and intense expression of emotion, characteristic of the Baroque style. Later in this period, the virtuoso use of brushwork became an expressive vehicle in its own right.
During the 17th century many young Dutch artists came to Italy to study, especially to Rome. A group of painters from Utrecht, including Hendrick ter Brugghen and Gerrit van Honthorst, were especially moved by the paintings of Caravaggio. In response, these artists (who went on to form part of an international Caravaggesque movement) depicted half-length figures in shallow spaces with plain, dark backgrounds, and they used artificial light sources, such as lanterns and candles, to create startling dramatic effects. Paintings by these Dutch followers of Caravaggio can be seen alongside those of the master in Room 32 from late September 2014 to summer 2015.