Thursday, January 29, 2009

Museum Reading

Fighting cabin fever?
Thinking about visiting a museum?

Here are some good reads to get you in the museum mood:

Frida by Barbara Wood.
A historical novel centered around the life of Frido Kahlo--the colorful, contentious Mexican painter who married Diego Rivera--introduces readers to Mexico in the first half of the twentieth century and the characters that shaped Kahlo's life.

The Wayward Muse
Fictionally explores important real-life participants in the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements.
Raised in the slums of Oxford with a certainty of her own homeliness, seventeen-year-old stableman's daughter Jane Burden is discovered by the charismatic and irreverent painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, with whom she falls madly in love before circumstances prompt her marriage to the shy craftsman William Morris.

The Painted Kiss
Vienna in 1886 was a city of elegant cafés, grand opera houses, and a thriving and adventurous artistic community. It was there that twelve-year-old Emilie Flöge met the con-troversial libertine and painter Gustav Klimt. When Klimt is hired by Emilie's bourgeois father to give her some basic drawing lessons, he introduces her to a subculture of dissolute artists, wanton models, and decadent patrons that both terrifies and fascinates her.
It is a world overflowing with the greatest artists, composers, and writers of the era, and yet doomed by the imminent collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Two by Karen Essex:

Leonardo's Swans
Two sisters compete for supremacy to be the model in one of Leonard's paintings in the illustrious courts of Europe.

Stealing Athena
The complex history of the
Elgin Marbles is viewed through the lives of two women--Aspasia, an ancient Greek female philosopher, and Mary Nisbet, wife of the Earl of Elgin, who played a key role in bringing the sculptures to England.
Currently on permanent display at the British Museum in London.

Caravaggio by Christopher Peachment presents a fictionalized portrait of the sixteenth-century Italian artist, beginning with his apprenticeship in Venice, his move to Rome, and his subsequent flight to Malta after he kills a man in a fight.

The Lost Diaries of Franz Hals
When ancient notebooks turn up in a Long Island garage, Peter Van Overloop, a Columbia graduate student, sets to translating them, and finds himself immersed in the life and times of the Dutch painter Frans Hals. for the notebooks seem to be Hal's diaries, and they contain a fascinating portrait of a man living in the age of Rembrandt and Descartes, and bursting with a lust for the world that surrounds him. Emerging as a thoroughly funny, charming man, Hals reaches out from centuries past to touch and change Peter's life forever.

Lust for Life: a novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Irving Stone.
Tells the heartbreaking, turbulent life of Vincent, his loving brother Theo, and Vincent's search for meaning through religion and art.

Also by Irving Stone-
The Agony and the Ecstasy: a novel of Michelangelo
From his boyhood apprenticeships through the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The Moon and the Sixpence by M. Somerset Maugham.
Closely following the real life of Paul Gaughin, this is the fictional story of Charles Strickland, a London stockbroker who undergoes a mid-life crisis, and takes off to Tahiti to paint. Written by a great British author, it presents a psychological study of the conflict between creative desires and maintaining a conventional life.

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman.
The life of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt is skillfully fictionalized in this powerful novel about art and passion, narrated by the artist's sister, Lydia.

The Golden Tulip by Rosalind Laker. While more of a historical romance, it is set in Holland during the time of Rembrandt and Vermeer.

Tracy Chevalier:
The Lady and the Unicorn
Interweaves historical fact with fiction to explore the mystery behind the creation of the remarkable Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, woven at the end of the fifteenth century, which today hang in the Cluny Museum in Paris.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring
A poor seventeenth-century servant girl knows her place in the household of the painter Johannes Vermeer, but when he begins to paint her, nasty whispers and rumors circulate throughout the town,

Four by Susan Vreeland:
The Luncheon of the Boating Party Auguste Renoir is inspired to paint "Luncheon of the boating party" when his other work is criticized by Emile Zola, and while doing so is drawn into lives of the thirteen people featured in it as they enjoy a Parisian summer during the late 1800s.
See Renoir's painting at
The Philips Collection.

The Girl in Hyacinth Blue The mysterious Vermeer again provides background for an imaginary painting by him, and the interwoven stories of the families who owned the painting in a chronicle going backward in time over several hundred years.

The Forest Lover
Canadian artist, Emily Carr, who died in 1945, is the focus of this biographical fiction about her efforts to translate through paintings the Totem Poles and traditional art of the Indian Tribes of British Columbia.

The Passion of Artemisia Post-Renaissance Italy is the backdrop for a female artist's life.

The Painting by Nina Schuyler.
Set outside the new capital of Tokyo during the Meiji Restoration and in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, The Painting is a richly imagined story of four characters whose lives are delicately and powerfully entwined: Ayoshi, the painter, pines for her lover as she dutifully attends to her husband; Ayoshi's husband, Hayashi, a government official who's been disfigured in a deadly fire, has his own well of secret yearnings; Jorgen, wounded by the war and by life, buries himself in work at the Paris shop; and the shop owner's sister, Natalia, who shows Jorgen the true message of the painting.