"They studied constantly from nature, not only living bodies but often the dead . . . in order that they could learn the true relaxation that bodies possess. . . . These masters, and their superior manner of painting, were the reason that many youths were . . . dedicating themselves to the same profession," a contemporary wrote about the Accademia degli Incamminati (Academy of the Progressives) that Lodovico Carracci and his cousins founded in Bologna.
Lodovico was older than his cousins, the brothers Annibale and Agostino Carracci, and he may have led the way in their quest to shift painting away from Mannerism's artifice. They trained most of the next generation's major Bolognese painters, including Domenichino and Guercino, to draw from life and to emphasize realistic, solid form. The least classical of the three, Lodovico's own influence on the younger generation was significant. Guercino in particular seized on Lodovico's emotionalism, his decorative patterns, rich textures, and his painterlyBaroque approach to color and light. The mystery of Lodovico's devotional works and the aristocratic sentiment of his portraits were unmatched by either cousin. After Agostino and Annibale left Bologna in the mid-1590s, Lodovico ran the Academy alone. Without their stimulation, he declined into a painter of large, rather sentimental altarpieces.