Novels about paintings?

Reply Sat 30 Apr, 2005 10:43 am
Irving Stone's "The Agony and the Ecstasy" is an excellent book about Michelangelo and his time.

"His time-the turbulent Renaissance, the years of poisoning princes, warring Popes, the all-poweful de'Medici family, the fanatic monk Savonarola...His loves-the frail and lovely daughter of Lorenzo de'Medici; the ardent mistrss of Marco Aldovrandi; and his last love, his greatest love-the beautiful, unhappy Vittoria Colonna...His geneius-a God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known..."

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Reply Sun 1 May, 2005 03:36 am
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art liker
Reply Wed 11 May, 2005 06:21 pm
art novels
Anatomy of an Enigma: on Francis Bacon
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

They are not novel's in the strict sense, but they are good.

Warhol's Diaries: Have you read them???
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Reply Wed 11 May, 2005 07:34 pm
Chuck Palahniuk's novel "Diary" is about a painter.... sort of.
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Reply Sun 19 Jun, 2005 01:01 am
~have not been around for quite awhile...
~please bear with me...
~books written about artists particularly intrigue me..
~books that are written centered on the arts, is well written or informative are on my lists~

~it is late/or early: definitely dark...
~in the light of day I should be able to arrive with a few books...

~as far as movies go, has anyone seen th relatively (independent? come=gone-without-a-blink) recent film that was about Jason Pollock?

~great to see something that is not a hollywood 'blockbuster'...
~perhaps because of that reason, being starved for a film that does not have only the "A-List" manufactured stars, I thought the movie was great..
~perhaps it was choppy, but it challenged one to question and evaluate the price some people pay to pursue painting or their paricular media of art; the consquences it takes on their lives; are they'paying a price'? or this is what they have to do?Is it a compusion?

If the movie about Pollock had even a modicum of truth, who would choose such turture?

& if his wife was portrayed with the truth the size of a grain of rice..she believed, supported his work, at the expense of her career...she believed/loved? him so strongly...that is another seperate issue. What is THAT all about? Masocism or a true devotion to ART?

Next posting, I will attempt to be more succinct...but seeing many of my old friends here...me & succinct is an oxymoron!

Thank you.

Best regards,
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Reply Sun 19 Jun, 2005 01:08 am
Next posting, I will attempt to be more succinct...but seeing many of my old friends here...me & succinct is an oxymoron!

Thank you.

Best regards,

..as I asked, Bear With Me!

Best regards..
make that =

fatima/one+zero= 10
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Reply Sun 19 Jun, 2005 09:20 am
Well, I am clearing out some of my book collection, and among them are many paperbacks re mysteries/police procedurals with painting at the heart of the story. Be back in a bit to type a list...
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art liker
Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 06:02 pm
Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven, arguably the first Dadaist to set foot on American soil, made some paintings. The book by Irene Gammel, Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada and Everyday Modernity, includes some of them, but the book isn's so much just about them. It's not even a novel actually, it's a "cultural biography" revolving around the life of the Baroness. I'm about 2/3 of my way through the book, and sometimes I get tired of Gammel's rather grandiose analogies of BvFL's life to Greek epic poetry (maybe because I don't now feel her life to be so epic), but the book is an intersting perspective on the life a fascinating woman artist at the turn of the century (20th cetury that is). Gammel speculates on BvFL's hand in the conception of Duchamp's Fountain, and provides a brief narrative of pre-and post world war I artistic tendencies in Munich, Zurich, and New York City. To be blunt, it seems that the Baroness was quite a nympho (or in the mind of the Baroness, the embodiment of a challenge to all sexual-relation labeling). The raunch is somewhat sterilized by Gammel's academicized style, which doesn't come across as a total loss, because I think the goal of the book is to share and celebrate the bigger, social and cultural transgressions cultivated by BvFL in the time of a very male-dominated Modernity. She wore tomato cans for a bra before the bra was invented! She shellacked her head vermillion! She got a few teeth knocked out in an imbroglio over politics! She championed temporality in art at a time when the art world was chalk-full of dreams for enternal Progress.

I sometimes get tired of Gammel's theories/blown-up artist associations with Pagan history, but I'm not done with the book, and in the meantime BvFL, and her cultural history are really interesting in the context of the birth of Dada, Duchamp arriving in America, artists relationship(s) to Nietzsche in Munich, and the Baroness' sheer vernacular speech is of the Best forms of her creative expression.

In a time when painting seemed to have very heroic social and aesthetic goals, she was busying herself up as the work of art itself.

A tip of my hat to Gammel, and of course to BvFL: I'm convinced that the artist is responsible for pioneering practices in art which later, or simultaneously, became appropriated and accredited to many mainstream male artists.

Did I mention that Michelangelo and Pope's Ceiling was really good too? It follows more of the "novel about painting" question to begin with.
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 08:13 pm
I'm going to start my list of novels about art that I am presently giving to the Salvation Army, and will try to remember some I have already so disposed of recently. I have probably read, oh, sixty more. Most of these aren't serious writing; some of the books worked well to me at the time, both for language and storyline. At this point, looking at boxes of books, I am unlikely to remember which exact books I was keen on for other than a sense of place...

I do this mostly so that titles aren't lost. For example, about twenty years ago I frequented the mystery/crime section of Marlow's bookstore in Santa Monica, quite the book dump. I bought a lot of 50 cent books in the Raven series, distinguishable by their yellow binding and the bird and some nice terse writing. I absolutely never see those in used book stores now, and am sorry I every tossed the books, as they were good reads and could bear with a new edition. Sorry, tangent, as those weren't about art, that I remember.

And after this buildup, perhaps the titles I still have on hand aren't so many.

I plan to edit this as I find the books in boxes, so this post will change over time.

To start,

Ian Pears
Death and Restoration, yikes, I have two
Giotto's Hand
The Bernini Bust
The Immaculate Deception

I guess I'll register neutral on these.

Lyn Hamilton, The Etruscan Chimera. I have a memory of this one annoying me, but not the reason why.

Wayne Warga
The Fatal Impressions
"when forgeries become collectors items---"
re Stella litho
yikes, I can't throw that out, he signed it...

C. Burke Block
This is one of those old raven books -
Art for Keeps
something about a body on the floor of an art gallery...

Oliver Banks
The Caravaggio Obsession
art and Rome, how could I not read it...
alas, I don't remember it.

Ken Follett
The Modigliani Scandal
A beautiful art historian...

Peter Clothier
Sothebys and art galleries...

Ngaio Marsh
When in Rome
well, y'know I'd buy this one

Richard Cox
Botticelli Madonna
tricky and engaging, plenty of action, says the wording on the back..
a woman stalked thing, never tippy top in my interest..

J. Robert Janes
re Lascaux film
one of the Soho Crime series books - which are either your cup of tea or not. I like them, generally good writing.
more later

Fredrick Huebner
Picture Postcard
"a famous painter of the Pacific Northwest School..."

Nicholas Kilmer
Harmony in Flesh and Black
"Highbrow Boston art collector.."

Elizabeth Lowell
Die in Plain Sight
hmm, I remember this one, as I am interested in California landscape painting history and Joan Irvine's painting collection.
A good read for me.

Margaret Truman
Murder at the National Gallery
senior curator finds a missing painting..
Well, I've been to the gallery, I might as well read this..
(I admit to reading others of her books some time ago)

Camilla T. Crespi
The Trouble with Going Home
Rome and food and art, I'll never not read one of these..
but I have some faint memory of actually liking Crespi's books.

Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief
Something about a cia agent turned art dealer and Sicily and gardens -
I have a faint memory of not getting into Gilman's books, though who knows, that was some time ago.

Jonathan Gash
The Vatican RIP
Lovejoy goes to Rome ---
by now all the mystery, art, police, and spy books that I have read set in the Vatican tumble over one another in my brain. Not to mention some personal accounts I've read, for example, by the head of the red cross in, I think it was then Yugoslavia, Branko Bokun.
But, staring at this book, put out by Penguin, I think I enjoyed it, it vibes at me. Something about a chippendale table.
And, like the Soho crime series, and Soho Press books in general, I tend to find books put out by Penguin to be generally readable.

Okay, now I find
Aaron Elkins

Hate to toss these (pack, pack).

I liked his books to start with - he has an analytic, scientific frame of mind, slightly foreign to me as one trained but not quite fitting in science - not that I disagree re the scientific method, but that is not what I have any flair for. I had read at least four of his books already when he logged into an old website some of us followed and spoke with Paola, re certain wordings for a book set in italy.
She is a pal of mind, or was, in that we were friends on that site and by email, and she took me around the Met museum in NY when I visited a few years ago. She has since died, and Aaron's book of the time has come out.
So, it is with a certain pleasure that I find I saved "A Deceptive Clarity -
about an exhibit of twenty priceless old masters.. Okay, put that back in the keep pile.

I seem to remember there were other of his books that dealt with art forgery, et al.

Ngaio Marsh
Artists in Crime

Sarah Caldwell
Thus Was Adonis Murdered
Italy, art, and comedy of manners.

Margaret Maron
Fugitive Colors
Police procedural... the police officer has a lover who is a famous artist in NY..

Aaron Elkins
Old Scores
can this Rembrandt be trusted to the Seattle Art Museum?

JJ Maaric
Gideon's Art
Velasquez painting stolen...
(Scotland Yard series)

Ben Healey
The Vespucci Papers
a frightened girl faces danger in Venice

Bartholomew Gill
McGarr and the Sienese Conspiracy
I dunno if that one is even about art. It's about Siena, enough for me...

David Ramus
Thief of Light
hmmm, I think I liked that one...
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 09:48 pm
I suppose I should put all those in alphabetical order. Manana.
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 09:58 pm
I admit to never having read the Agony and the Ecstacy, nor Lust for Life.
Rather a fan of Cellini's Autobiography though, which may have some fictional elements by him but is indeed an autobio. Also could hardly put down Vasari's Lives of the Artists...
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 09:59 pm
But, slapping my fingers, those aren't novels, at least intentionally.
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 10:07 pm
According to the book, The Agony and the Ecstasy is a biographical novel.

An interesting mix worth reading. Smile
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 10:30 pm
I meant that Cellini's Autobiography and that Vasari's Lives of the Artists aren't novels.
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 10:37 pm
Are they good? Biographies sometimes are boring.
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 11:14 pm
The large list I posted are entertaining for those of us with at least a sometime interest in art. Pretty dismissible among academics, until they try to write one too.

As for Cellini's autobiography - that was, I read somewhere, the actual first autobiography ever.
But, let me guess that is not exactly true. Just go read Cellini, I'd be surprised it you don't connect to his first pages.
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Reply Mon 20 Jun, 2005 11:16 pm
Thanks ossobuco
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Reply Tue 21 Jun, 2005 12:02 am
Welcome, Angelique..
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Reply Tue 21 Jun, 2005 07:18 am
Ossobuco, Thank you, thank you for this great list of a wonderful sub-genre of the mystery novel! Literally, the only one I had read in this area is John Banville's ATHENA, a very fine book in every way--but now, thanks to your list, which you so kindly annotated, I can explore. Will look first at the Elkinses and the Ngaio Marsh.

You mention being trained for science. So was I, but, happily, English Lit and Art History got in the way! Sometimes, I wonder, as I hear physician friends cursing the coldness of the HMOs and the heat of the attendant paperwork, whether, if I'd stuck with the hard sciences, I'd still be a surgeon (one of my stronger initial interests) today--or whether I would have fled into retirement several years ago. I think the latter!
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Reply Tue 21 Jun, 2005 08:21 am
Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand

Washington Post's Book World wrote:
We know the images created by the pre-Raphaelite painters of Victorian England too well. Seen through modern eyes, the ethereal femmes fatales beloved of Edward Burne-Jones or Dante Gabriel Rossetti appear now as little better than projected male fantasies, vacuous and sentimental, visual clich├ęs on a par with Canaletto's Venice.

But are we seeing the pictures themselves, or only our reductive preconceptions of them? Elizabeth Hand has reclaimed the ur-impulses of the pre-Raphaelites -- their delight in arcane folklore, fascination with nature and openness to supernatural experience -- and created a pre-Raphaelite work of her own. Mortal Love is at once a painting in prose, an investigation into artistic obsession and a re-evaluation. We may see the strange, attenuated women of pre-Raphaelite art rather differently after reading Mortal Love. And, if the book's strange tale is to be believed, they may see us differently, too.

The story begins in England in the 1870s with that most unblushing and Victorian of opening gambits: a letter. One director of an insane asylum, Dr. Hoffmann, has written to another, Thomas Learmont, of the spontaneous combustion of a young woman in his care. Hoffmann's name, one presumes, is Hand's sly salute to the German folklorist; we never meet him in person. Learmont will prove pivotal, but it is the dead woman who will link the different times and locales in which Mortal Love is set. Reduced to ashes before the novel begins, then reincarnated as numerous women within it, she is the enigmatic object of quests ranging from Victorian England to an island off the coast of Maine in the 1980s, and from a remote coast in rural Cornwall to present-day London.

Learmont is only the first of a series of protagonists, all male, who encounter a strange and alluring young woman, become drawn in by her, and then are mysteriously damaged and discarded. She is pictured for us initially in the late works of an eccentric and reclusive American painter, Radborne Comstock, who seems to have been inspired by a meeting with her during a trip to England in the 1880s. Comstock's obsessively detailed canvasses show a fairy world that, a century later, enchants the painter's young grandson, Valentine, who is compelled to create his own vision of such a world and the mysterious woman at its center. Valentine names the woman "Vernoraxia." In a hallucinatory scene, she visits him in the guise of another woman, takes his virginity and disappears, leaving Valentine in a state of catastrophic mental breakdown.

Twenty years later, in present-day London, a 44-year-old journalist named Daniel Rowlands has taken a sabbatical to write a novel, or "an exploration of mythic love," about Tristan and Iseult. Its working title: Mortal Love. Soon Daniel's understanding of both those terms is being vigorously redefined by the mysterious Larkin Meade, a possibly schizophrenic young woman with a penchant for absinthe, offal and exotic underwear. She introduces Daniel in turn to the wealthy Russell Learmont (descendant of Thomas), who is bargaining to buy a late painting by Radborne Comstock.

Mortal Love negotiates cleverly between its 20th-century and Victorian time frames, embroiling us in a rich stew of lost artworks, the folklore behind them and (merely glimpsed) the reality behind that folklore. Those glimpses provide the book's edgiest moments as Hand's carefully constructed realistic settings cede to a vision of a green-glowing fairy world from which the likes of Vernoraxia or Larkin might have credibly issued. Here is the Victorian poet Swinburne, one of several real characters reimagined by Hand, encountering that scene for the first time: "Within a green world, prismatic things flickered and flew and spun: rubescent, azure, luminous yellow, the pulsing indigo of the heart's hidden valves. All were so brilliant he could see nothing clearly. . . ." Alas, Swinburne's robust verbal reaction to this vision cannot be quoted in a family newspaper, but the reader, too, might utter the odd imprecation at such visual incoherence. Such passages, however, are few and, like the occasional confusions of geography and genealogy, hardly detract from the beguiling sense of mystery that envelops the reader as Hand's disparate narratives slowly braid themselves together.

Daniel's affair with Larkin affords the reader an enjoyably twisty but dependable narrative thread in the modern episodes. Comstock's sojourn in England does the same for the Victorian era. With Comstock we are led through a steaming, sodden London and introduced to its strangest denizens. Hand's gift for deadpan comedy serves her well in larger-than-life characterizations such as that of Swinburne and, most wonderfully, the gargantuan mother of Oscar Wilde. Bolder still is her reclamation of the hoary tropes of Victorian Gothic fiction: deformed servants, decaying mansions, Learmont's insane asylum perched atop a remote, crumbling cliff in Cornwall. The novel is stitched together with enigmatic symbols and teasing coincidences.

All these conspire to give Mortal Love a satisfying, story-rich texture. But Hand's use of such traditional materials is also deceptive. The novel's presiding artistic genius is neither Comstock nor Daniel Rowlands but Jacobus Candell, a painter and inmate of Thomas Learmont's asylum. Candell is modeled on the Victorian artist Richard Dadd, a murderer and the creator of some of the strangest, most compelling and obsessive images of the 19th century. Where could such inhuman creations have come from? What lies behind the complex, even violent process that we call artistic inspiration? That is the final mystery evoked in Elizabeth Hand's ambitious and richly imagined novel. By tracing the turbulence and reverberations of that process back to its source, Mortal Love offers its readers the satisfactions of a detective thriller. Here, however, the mystery goes deeper than murder. Nothing, Hand convinces us, is quite as mysterious as art.
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