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Annibale Carracci was the most admired painter of his time and the vital force in the creation of Baroque style. Together with his cousin Ludovico and his older brother Agostino --each an outstanding artist—Annibale set out to transform Italian painting. The Carracci rejected the artificiality of Mannerist painting, championing a return to nature coupled with the study of the great northern Italian painters of the Renaissance, especially Correggio, Titian, and Veronese.
During the 1580s, the Carracci were painting the most radical and innovative pictures in Europe. Annibale not only drew from nature, he created a new, broken brushwork to capture movement and the effects of light on form. (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/carr/hd_carr.htm)
Carracci is the forgotten artist of the 17th century. A quiet, introverted man, his conspicuous lack of torrid love affairs, salacious scandals, or violent behavior have lead to his gradual disappearance on the horizon of famous artists.
Until now, contemporary art lovers have been far more attracted to the scandalous controversy caused by artists like Caravaggio and may even prefer the more rebellious artist's dark and tortured paintings.
Yet, the art of Annibale Carracci was far more influential in the course of Baroque art. His style was revolutionary for its unprecedented naturalism and careful, objective study from life. Unlike like-minded contemporary Caravaggio, however, Annibale was able to mix that revolutionary realism with the idealized perfection of classical and Renaissance art, thus pioneering a style of "idealized realism" that represented the middle path between the outlandish fantasy of Mannerism and the dark, gritty realism of Caravaggio and his followers.
However, although he was adored in the 17th century, Annibale Carracci's reputation suffered the same as the rest of the Baroque: it was smashed in the 18th century with the rise of Neoclassicism.