Cezanne: A Life


Alex Danchev - 2012
    Alex Danchev, with brisk intellect, rich documentation, and eighty color illustrations, tells the story of an artist who, during his lifetime, was considered a madman, a barbarian, and a revolutionary. Beginning with the restless teenager from Aix, Danchev carries us through the trials of a painter who believed that art must be an expression of temperament but who was tormented by self-doubt; whose work sold to no one outside his immediate circle until late into his thirties; who fiercely maintained the revolutionary belief that "to paint from nature is not to copy an object; it is to represent its sensations." And Danchev shows us how the implications of this belief became the obsession of many other artists and writers, from Matisse to Samuel Beckett. The book delivers not only the fascinating life of this visionary artist and remarkable man but a complete assessment of his ongoing influence in the artistic imagination of our own time.

Van Gogh


Steven Naifeh - 2011
    Now Naifeh and Smith have written another tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable, and ultimately heartbreaking portrait of creative genius Vincent van Gogh.Working with the full cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Naifeh and Smith have accessed a wealth of previously untapped materials. While drawing liberally from the artist’s famously eloquent letters, they have also delved into hundreds of unpublished family correspondences, illuminating with poignancy the wanderings of Van Gogh’s troubled, restless soul. Naifeh and Smith bring a crucial understanding to the larger-than-life mythology of this great artist—his early struggles to find his place in the world; his intense relationship with his brother Theo; his impetus for turning to brush and canvas; and his move to Provence, where in a brief burst of incandescent productivity he painted some of the best-loved works in Western art.The authors also shed new light on many unexplored aspects of Van Gogh’s inner world: his deep immersion in literature and art; his erratic and tumultuous romantic life; and his bouts of depression and mental illness.Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, and though the broad outlines of his tragedy have long inhabited popular culture, no serious, ambitious examination of his life has been attempted in more than seventy years. Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh’s life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius whose signature images of sunflowers and starry nights have won a permanent place in the human imagination.

The Journal of Eugene Delacroix (Phaidon Arts and Letters)


Eugène Delacroix - 1893
    In it the artist discusses his own paintings, his life, his sorrow and hopes; the paintings and sculptures of Rubens, Michelangelo, Constable, Bonington and others: old and new literature and the music of Mozart, Rossini and Chopin, the events of his time.This revival of a famous Phaidon series brings together in an elegant format some of the best-known writings of renowned artists, critics and interpreters of our cultural tradition. Each book, an acknowledged classic, provides insights not only into the worlds of the arts and cultural history, but also into the creative and intellectual preoccupations of its author and his time. These Phaidon editions have an introduction and notes by a distinguished editor and a wide range of illustrations specially chosen to complement the text.

The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles


Martin Gayford - 2006
    This was, without doubt, the most celebrated cohabitation in art history: never, before or since have two such towering artistic talents been penned up in so small a space. They were the Odd Couple of art history. Predictably, the results were explosive. The dâenouement of their life together has entered into folklore. Two months after Gauguin arrived in Arles, Van Gogh suffered a psychological crisis. He spent most of the rest of his life in a mental institution. Gauguin fled from Arles, and they never saw each other again. But in the brief period during which they worked together a stream of masterpieces was created within the studio they shared. Here, for the first time, the full story of their life together is told.

Renoir's Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon


Catherine Hewitt - 2018
    But behind her captivating façade lay a closely-guarded secret.Suzanne was born into poverty in rural France, before her mother fled the provinces, taking her to Montmartre. There, as a teenager Suzanne began posing for—and having affairs with—some of the age’s most renowned painters. Then Renoir caught her indulging in a passion she had been trying to conceal: the model was herself a talented artist.Some found her vibrant still lifes and frank portraits as shocking as her bohemian lifestyle. At eighteen, she gave birth to an illegitimate child, future painter Maurice Utrillo. But her friends Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas could see her skill. Rebellious and opinionated, she refused to be confined by tradition or gender, and in 1894, her work was accepted to the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, an extraordinary achievement for a working-class woman with no formal art training.Renoir’s Dancer tells the remarkable tale of an ambitious, headstrong woman fighting to find a professional voice in a male-dominated world.

Caravaggio: A Life


Helen Langdon - 1998
    In this vivid and beautifully written biography, Helen Langdon tells the story of the great painter's life and times in a way that leaves the reader with a renewed appreciation of his art.

Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim


Anton Gill - 2001
    She married the writer Laurence Vail and joined the American expatriate bohemian set. Though her many lovers included such lions of art and literature as Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst (whom she later married), Yves Tanguy, and Roland Penrose, real love always seemed to elude her.In the late 1930s, Peggy set up one of the first galleries of modern art in London, quickly acquiring a magnificent selection of works, buying great numbers of paintings from artists fleeing to America after the Nazi invasion of France. Escaping from Vichy, she moved back to New York, where she was a vital part of the new American abstract expressionist movement.Meticulously researched, filled with colorful incident, and boasting a distinguished cast, Anton Gill's biography reveals the inner drives of a remarkable woman and indefatigable patron of the arts.

Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography


Meryle Secrest - 2014
    Her collaborations with artists such as Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Alberto Giacometti elevated the field of women's clothing design into the realm of art.Her story is one of pluck, determination and talent with scandal as spice. As the daughter of minor Italian nobility whose disastrous first marriage to a Theosophist caused near penury, she transformed herself into a designer of great imagination and, along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she was one of the few female figures in the field at that time

Francis Bacon in Your Blood


Michael Peppiatt - 2015
    Bacon invited him to lunch, and over oysters and Chablis they began a friendship and a no-holds-barred conversation that would continue until Bacon's death thirty years later. Fascinated by the artist's brilliance and charisma, Peppiatt accompanied him on his nightly round of prodigious drinking from grand hotel to louche club and casino, seeing all aspects of Bacon's 'gilded gutter life' and meeting everybody around him, from Lucian Freud and Sonia Orwell to East End thugs; from predatory homosexuals to Andy Warhol and the Duke of Devonshire. He also frequently discussed painting with Bacon in his studio, where only the artist's closest friends were ever admitted. The Soho photographer, John Deakin, who introduced the young student to the famous artist, called Peppiatt 'Bacon's Boswell'. Despite the chaos Bacon created around him Peppiatt managed to record scores of their conversations ranging over every aspect of life and art, love and death, the revelatory and hilarious as well as the poignantly tragic. Gradually Bacon became a kind of father figure for Peppiatt, and the two men's lives grew closely intertwined. In this intimate and deliberately indiscreet account, Bacon is shown close-up, grand and petty, tender and treacherous by turn, and often quite unlike the myth that has grown up around him. This is a speaking portrait, a living likeness, of the defining artist of our times.

A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin


Judith Flanders - 2001
    Yet as wives and mothers they would connect a famous painter, a president of the Royal Academy, a prime minister, and the uncrowned poet laureate of the Empire. Georgiana and Alice married, respectively, the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and the arts administrator Edward Poynter; Louisa gave birth to future prime minister Stanley Baldwin, and Alice was mother to Rudyard Kipling. "A Circle of Sisters brings to life four women living at a privileged moment in history. Their progress from obscurity to imperial grandeur indicates the vitality of nineteenth-century Britain: a society abundant with possibility. From their homes in India, America, and England, the sisters formed a network that, through the triumphs and tragedies of their families and the Empire, uniquely endured.

Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story


Bernadette Murphy - 2016
    It is the most famous story about any artist in history. But what really happened on that dark winter night?In Van Gogh's Ear, Bernadette Murphy reveals the truth. She takes us on an extraordinary journey from major museums to forgotten archives, vividly reconstructing Van Gogh's world. We meet police inspectors and café patrons, prostitutes and madams, his beloved brother Theo and fellow painter Paul Gauguin.Why did Van Gogh commit such a brutal act? Who was the mysterious 'Rachel' to whom he presented his macabre gift? Did he really remove his entire ear? Murphy answers these important questions with her groundbreaking discoveries, offering a stunning portrait of an artist edging towards madness in his pursuit of excellence.BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEKPRIMETIME BBC2 DOCUMENTARY WITH JEREMY PAXMAN

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The True Story Behind Degas's Masterpiece


Camille Laurens - 2017
     She is famous throughout the world, but how many know her name? You can admire her figure in Washington, Paris, London, New York, Dresden, or Copenhagen, but where is her grave? We know only her age, fourteen, and the work that she did--because it was already grueling work, at an age when children today are sent to school. In the 1880s, she danced as a "little rat" at the Paris Opera, and what is often a dream for young girls now wasn't a dream for her. She was fired after several years of intense labor; the director had had enough of her repeated absences. She had been working another job, even two, because the few pennies the Opera paid weren't enough to keep her and her family fed. She was a model, posing for painters or sculptors--among them Edgar Degas.Drawing on a wealth of historical material as well as her own love of ballet and personal experiences of loss, Camille Laurens presents a compelling, compassionate portrait of Marie van Goethem and the world she inhabited that shows the importance of those who have traditionally been overlooked in the study of art.

De Niro: A Biography


Shawn Levy - 2014
    His performances, particularly in the first 20 years of his career, are unparalleled. The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull-all dazzled moviegoers-a talent the likes of which we have rarely or never seen. Yet so little is known about De Niro-he is an intensely private man, whose rare public appearances are often marked by inarticulateness and all-around awkwardness. It can be almost painful to watch at times, in such contrast to his on-screen personae. In this elegant and compelling biography, Shawn Levy writes of these many De Niros-of the characters, and of the man, seeking to understand an evolution of an actor who once used roles to hide the nature of his real life, and who now turns down those parts, instead to play characters who possess little challenge to his overwhelming talent. From De Niro's roots as the child of artists (often called Bobby Milk for his pasty complexion) to his marriages and life as a father, restauranteur, and philanthropist, and of course to his current movie career, Levy has written a biography that reads like a novel of a character whose inner turmoil takes him to heights of artistry. Among the many who have been key players in his career are the likes of Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, and countless others who appear in the book.

Sargent's Daughters: The Biography of a Painting


Erica Hirshler - 2009
    Among his renowned portraits, "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" stands alongside "Madame X" and "Lady Agnew of Lochnaw" as one of Sargent's immortal images. This painting depicts four young sisters in the spacious foyer of the family's Paris apartment, strangely dispersed across the murky tones and depths of the square canvas, as though unrelated to one another, unsettled and unsettling to the eye. "The Daughters" both affirms and defies convention, flouting the boundaries between portrait and genre scene, formal composition and quick sketch or snapshot. Unveiled at the Paris Salon of 1883, it predated by just two years the scandal of "Madame X" and was itself characterized by one critic as "four corners and a void"; but Henry James came closer to the mark when he described the painter as a "knock-down insolence of talent," for few of Sargent's works embody the epithet as well as "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit." Drawing on numerous unpublished archival documents, scholar Erica E. Hirshler excavates all facets of this iconic canvas, discussing not only its significance as a work of art but also the figures and events involved in its making, its importance for Sargent's career, its place in the tradition of artistic patronage and the myriad factors that have contributed to its lasting popularity and relevance. The result is an aesthetic, philosophical and personal tour de force that will change the way you look at Sargent's work, and that both illuminates an iconic painting and reaffirms its pungent magnetism.

The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art


Ingrid Rowland - 2017
    Before Vasari’s extraordinary book, art was considered a technical skill rather than an intellectual pursuit, and artists were mere decorators and craftsmen. It was through Vasari’s visionary writings that artists like Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo came to be regarded as great masters of life as well as art, their creative genius celebrated as a divine gift. Their enduring reputations testify to Vasari’s profound yet unspoken influence on western culture.An advisor to kings and pontiffs—and a confidant to Titian, Donatello, and more—Vasari enjoyed an exhilarating career amid the thrilling culture of Renaissance Italy. In The Collector of Lives, Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney offer a lively and inviting introduction to this pivotal figure in art history, and immerse readers in the world of the Medici of Florence and the popes of Rome. A narrative of intrigue, scandal, and colorful artistic rivalry, this vivid biography shows the great works of western art taking shape under Vasari’s keen eye—and reveals how one Renaissance scholar completely redefined how we look at art.