To say I am a reader is an understatement – I am a READER. I read almost every day. I do read a good bit about art, both fictional stories and non-fiction. I find little facts buried within these books that inspires me to do further research. Here are a few of what I found this year (I admit this idea came to me late in the year so a goal is to keep a better record of what I’m finding).
THE LOST PAINTING by Jonathan Harr – This book reads like a fictional detective mystery. However, it is a true account about the painstaking research done by Francesca Cappelletti and Laura Testa to track down the lost Carravaggio, The Taking Of Christ, shown below. Before engraving and photography, did you know painters sometimes made, or had copies made of their paintings. This particular painting has at least 12 copies, which made authenticating the original more daunting. In fact, there are fewer than 80 Carravaggio’s authenticated, and according to some sources, there could be fewer than 60.
If you don’t know anything about Carravaggio’s life, it is worth looking up. He fled Rome after killing a man, often painted himself into his paintings, signed only one painting, he worked directly on the canvas and his painting career lasted only about 13 years.
Another interesting thing I discovered after looking up the painting, when Mel Gibson was filming The Passion of the Christ, he admitted to imitating Carravaggio’s style in the arrest scene in the movie, using both similar lighting and placement of the figures.
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel – Paul Sachs, son of Samuel Sachs and Louisa Goldman Sachs (yes, Goldman Sachs) was the associate Director of the Fogg Art Museum beginning in 1923. In fact, he started a study at Harvard on museum curatorship. Being only 5’2″, he hung paintings much lower than in Europe. Because his students considered it the norm, they continued hanging paintings lower also. I don’t know if this is still true, but I found it an interesting fact. He was also a founding member of the Museum of Modern Art .
The average age of the members of the Monuments Men was 40 and everyone chose to join.
Other members included Captain Walker Hancock, who had won the Prix de Rome prior to World War II and designed the Army Air Medal in 1941, Lincoln Kirstein, the founder of the New York City Ballet, and Second Lt. James J. Rorimer, who became curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was instrumental in the founding of the Cloisters.
This book has so many interesting facts in it, it is important to mention it is a major motion picture, to be released in February 2014, written, directed, produced and starring George Clooney, along with Matt Damon, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and others.
Bad Boy, My Life On and Off the Canvas – Eric Fischl – This book is interspersed with musings from fellow painters, friends and collectors. Now, I wasn’t surprised to find art collector, comedian and all around renaissance man Steve Martin here. But, finding John McEnroe was initially surprising until I remembered he had a gallery in SoHo beginning in 1993 exhibiting such artists at Alice Neel and David Smith. However, he and Eric traded tennis lessons for painting lessons. They began going on art expeditions together, thus furthering John’s interest in art. In fact, the first painting lesson involved a nude model.
The Judgement of Paris, The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism – by Ross King – I have to admit, I have not finished this book, but there was one small paragraph that grabbed my attention that had to do with the history of the Top Hat.
Yes, the top hat. Apparently, in 1797, and English haberdasher by the name of John Hetherington took a walk wearing a top hat, which apparently caused a riot. It terrified people, women fainted, children cried and dogs barked (can you imagine?) and the police literally grabbed him by the collar and gave him a summons for disturbing the peace. Well, that seemed so outlandish that I started googling around, and apparently the top hat is credited to George Dunnage in 1793. I couldn’t find any documentation that proved the story of John Hetherington actually happened, but it is recounted in several places.
In my reading, I come across small facts that I find so interesting I’m compelled to do further research. In the future, I’m going to make better notes and write about these small and interesting facts.
If you have any books to recommend, please do so!