Monday, March 8, 2010

Books by Theme: Nonfiction Art Reads

man made out of books

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King book cover
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, Ross King's account of the four years that Michelangelo spent painting the Sistine Chapel frescoes, is a grand mix of history and biography. Readers learn about Michelangelo's problems with health and money, his difficult patron, Pope Julius II, and his rivalry with the young Raphael. King also paints a fascinating picture of 16th-century Rome, inhabited by such figures as Leonardo da Vinci, Savonarola, and Machiavelli.

Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr book coverJonathan Harr's The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece traces dual paths to the The Taking of Christ. The first follows two graduate art students from Rome, the other a restorer at the National Gallery of Ireland who is assigned an old painting of unknown origin. As the story unfolds, readers are drawn deep into the world of archival research and the life of Caravaggio.
discovery of Caravaggio's

Lives of the Muses by Francine Prose book cover
Francine Prose explores the complex dynamics between the artist and his muse in The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired. In these nine profiles, she analyzes the lives of women who had the luck, or misfortune, to connect their destiny with that of a famous artist. Among the muses are Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland; Lou Andreas Salome, who fascinated Nietzsche, Rilke, and Freud; Gala, the wife of Salvador Dali; and John Lennon's Yoko Ono.

I was Vermeer by Frank Wynne book cover
As is the case with I Was Vermeer, some real-life stories are more fantastic than anything Hollywood can invent. That a mid-20th-century artist could create forgeries that fooled the entire art world is the extraordinary story of Dutch art forger Hans van Meegeren (1889–1947). Recognizing that very few Johannes Vermeer paintings were known in his time and that there were no known early Vermeers, Meergeren realized he could create works that could not be compared to any authenticated Vermeer. Those fakes fooled everyone—art scholars, museum curators, and Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Göring included. Meegeren's deception was only discovered when he confessed it in court to save himself. London-based journalist and literary translator Wynne uses his journalistic skills to present a remarkable story that is part mystery, part adventure, part biography, and part courtroom drama. His thorough research and accomplished writing style bring this unique event in art history to the general public. 

What are your favorite nonfiction books about art and artists?

~ For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~


Andi said...

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling has been on my wishlist forever, so thank you for the reminder to get my butt in gear and hunt it down! I didn't have very good luck with The Lives of the Muses, though. Maybe it was a mood thing.

Hannah Stoneham said...

Hi - what a fantastic post - I love art books so I really enjoyed seeing these and I would especially love to have a go at the lives of the muses.

I guess that my favourites would be:

The Marchesa Casati - portraits of a Muse (I recently reviewed this on my own blog and it is quite a new book)

Augustus John by Michael Holroyd

The Art of Dora Carrington

The Lives of the Impressionists is also a classic.

thank you for a lovely post,


Marie Cloutier said...

The book about muses sounds interesting; it would be interesting to read about some of these women.

Greg Zimmerman said...

Cool post! I also really enjoyed Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling - amazing that that ceiling ever got painted! (I also really enjoyed Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy - a biographical novel about Michelangelo...)

Serge Bramly's "Leonardo: The Artist and the Man" is also very good - a surprisingly insightful biography of a brilliant mind!

Kristi said...

I really enjoyed this post. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling sounds great to me - I love the idea of hearing more about the history behind the art.

christa @ mental foodie said...

I've added some to my TBR! I haven't read a lot of books on art - I did read Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo last year - while some parts were a bit slow, it was an interesting read.

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