Salvator Rosa (1615 –1673) is best known today as an Italian Baroque painter, whose romanticized landscapes and history paintings, often set in dark and untamed nature, exerted considerable influence from the 17th century into the early 19th century. In his lifetime he was among the most famous painters, known for his flamboyant personality, and regarded as an accomplished poet, satirist, actor, musician, and printmaker, as well. He was active in Naples, Rome, and Florence, where on occasion he was compelled to move between cities, as his caustic satire earned him enemies in the artistic and intellectual circles of the day.
As a history painter, he often selected obscure and esoteric subjects from the Bible, mythology, and the lives of philosophers, that were seldom addressed by other artists. He rarely painted the common religious subjects, unless they allowed a treatment dominated by the landscape element. He also produced battle scenes, allegories, scenes of witchcraft, and many self portraits. However, he is most highly regarded for his very original landscapes, depicting "sublime" nature: often wild and hostile, at times rendering the people that populated them as marginal in the greater realm of nature. They were the very antithesis of the "picturesque" classical views of Claude Lorrain and prototypes of the romantic landscape. Some critics have noted that his technical skills and craftsmanship as a painter were not always equal to his truly innovative and original visions. This is in part due to a large number of canvases he hastily produced in his youth (1630s) in pursuit of financial gain, paintings that Rosa himself came to loathe and distance himself from in his later years, as well as posthumously misattributed paintings.: 138 p. Many of his peopled landscapes ended up abroad by the 18th century, and he was better known in England and France than most Italian Baroque painters.
Rosa has been described as "unorthodox and extravagant", a "perpetual rebel", "The Anti-Claude",: 6 p. and a proto-Romantic. He had a great influence on Romanticism, becoming a cult-like figure in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and myths and legends grew around his life, to the point that his real life was scarcely distinguished from the bandits and outsiders that roamed the wild and thundery landscapes he painted. By the mid 19th century however, with the rise of realism and Impressionism, his work fell from favor and received very little attention. A renewed interest in his paintings emerged in the late 20th century, and although he is not ranked among the very greatest of the Baroque painters by art historians today, he is considered an innovative and significant landscape painter and a progenitor of the romantic movement.