Jason and the Dragon, c. 1663–64, oil on canvas. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Purchase, Miss Olive Hosmer Fund


Until March 27 2011 – Kimbell Art Museum

A 36-painting overview of the career of the 17th-century Italian artist at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, is the first US exhibition devoted to Rosa’s work. Among them are self-portraits, landscapes, studies of magic and science, and figure paintings.

While many of Rosa’s subjects within his majestic landscapes seem incomprehensible — hermits, soldiers, bandits and witches — basically he was just playing into the popular culture of the day, which isn’t so different from our own. There was an appetite then for stories about loners who battle the forces of the unknown, valiant men in hostile territories, knaves who dress well and bloodthirsty women. He was painting the hits of the 1600s.

Look at the exhibition through a contemporary lens and you will see much that is familiar; try to place it in a historical context and much will be lost. It’s not that Rosa was prescient; it’s that not much has changed in the diversionary appetites of man.

Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) was one of the boldest personalities and most powerfully inventive artist of seventeenth-century Italy. Best known as the creator of wild landscapes where bandits and hermits lurk among shattered trees and rocks, he ranged widely and with great originality in his choice of subjects;

Museum Hours