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Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles (Eminent Lives)by Francine Prose
Synopses & Reviews
andquot;I believe in the absolute necessity of a new art of colour, of drawing andandmdash;of the artistic life,andquot; Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in 1888. andquot;And if we work in that faith, it seems to me that thereand#39;s a chance that our hopes wonand#39;t be in vain.andquot; His prediction would come true. In his brief and explosively creative lifeandmdash;he committed suicide a few years later at the age of thirty-sevenandmdash;Van Gogh made us see the world in a new way. His shining landscapes of Provence and somber portraits of workers shattered the relationship between light and dark, and his hallucinatory visions were so bright they nearly blinded the world.
He was a great writer as well. In his six hundredandndash;plus letters to Theo he chronicled with heartbreaking urgency his mental breakdowns, acrimonious family relations, and struggles with art dealers, who largely ignored him until the last years of his life. Shading this dark story is the artistandrsquo;s acquaintance with prostitutes and penury, stormy scenes with his friend Paul Gauguin, and dissipated Parisian nights with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Julian Bellandrsquo;s passion for his subject brings the painter to life. Bell writes with slashing intensity, at once scholarly and defiantly partisan. andldquo;I have written this book out of my love for Vincent van Gogh, the uniquely exciting painter, and Vincent van Gogh, the letter writer of heart-piercing eloquence,andrdquo; he declares. For Bell, Van Gogh was an artistic genius and more: he was a wonder of the world.
"The first thing to know about this life of the Italian baroque painter Caravaggio is that it is not a proper biography but rather an informal appreciation by novelist and occasional art critic Prose (Blue Angel). As with the other volumes in the Eminent Lives series, groundbreaking research is not expected. Fair enough. Yet despite her obvious love for the artist, Prose has little of substance to say about him. Once she dispatches with the basic points of the artist's life — that Caravaggio defied the fashion for mannered, pious painting with a gritty but theatrical realism that mirrored the artist's turbulent life — she resorts to the puffed-up style of a student trying to reach a term paper's required length. She stuffs her pages with redundant adjectives ('wan, exhausted, used up,' 'constant and unchanged') and finds no point too trite to repeat three times: 'You can watch an artist realizing that what he is doing is succeeding, that the paint is doing precisely what he wants it to do, that his intention and purpose are finding their way onto the canvas.' Even those with only a casual interest in the artist would be better served by Helen Langdon's 1998 biography Caravaggio: A Life, which is as accessible as it is scholarly and is now out in paperback." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A passionate account of the tortured life and tragic death of the greatest artist of the nineteenth century, by renowned critic and painter Julian Bell.
Vanand#160;Gogh is a vivid portrait of the great Impressionist painter that traces his life from the Netherlands, where he was born into a family of art dealers, through his years in England, the Hague, andand#160;Paris, to his final home in Arles, where he discovered the luminous style of his late paintings before his suicide at the age of thirty-seven.
Vanand#160;Gogh struggled to find his way as an artist:and#160;Well into his mid-twenties he had achieved virtually nothing except a few charcoal drawings of coal miners. Afflicted by mental illness and a mercurial temper, he was institutionalized several times toward the end of his life. Julian Bell conveys this tragic story with great compassion, depicting van Gogh in all his anguished vigor, a genius for whom the greatest challenge was to stay alive until he had completed his most fully realized and magnificent works.
Francine Prose's life of Caravaggio evokes the genius of this great artist through a brilliant reading of his paintings. Caravaggio defied the aesthetic conventions of his time; his use of ordinary people, realistically portrayed—street boys, prostitutes, the poor, the aged—was a profound and revolutionary innovation that left its mark on generations of artists. His insistence on painting from nature, on rendering the emotional truth of experience, whether religious or secular, makes him an artist who speaks across the centuries to our own time.
Born in 1571 near Milan, Michelangelo Merisi (da Caravaggio) moved to Rome when he was twenty-one years old. He became a brilliant and successful artist, protected by the influential Cardinal del Monte and other patrons. But he was also a man of the streets who couldn't seem to free himself from its brawls and vendettas. In 1606 he fled Rome, apparently after killing another man in a dispute. He spent his last years in exile, in Naples, Malta, and Sicily, at once celebrated for his art and tormented by his enemies. Through it all, he produced masterpieces of astonishing complexity and power. Eventually he received a pardon from the Pope, only to die, in mysterious circumstances, on the way back to Rome in 1610.
Francine Prose presents the brief but tumultuous life of one of the greatest of all painters with passion and acute sensitivity.
About the Author
Francine Prose is the author of fourteen books of fiction, including, most recently, A Changed Man and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her works of nonfiction include the national bestseller The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired. A recipient of numerous grants and awards, among them Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, Prose was a Director?s Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She lives in New York City.
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