- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Penguin UK (23 August 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0241954649
- ISBN-13: 978-0241954645
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,60,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred And Profane Paperback – 23 Aug 2011
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Caravaggio has rarely been seen in such depth and such relief as in this marvellous biography. Andrew Graham-Dixon reads Caravaggio's paintings with the habits and assumptions, thoughts and fears of his contemporaries so that we see and feel the paintings more acutely and intensely than before. The man and his work emerge enriched and enlivened (Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum)
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane gave me immense pleasure and provided constant delight. It is a thrilling lesson in the art of seeing, a sensual exploration of the shadows of Caravaggio's sometimes violent but always Christian world, a detective story with a highly satisfying ending. Andrew Graham-Dixon's ability to have a reader see a painting through written language is a rare and precious gift. The book's rigour and integrity are obvious. I trusted every word and was sorry to turn the final page (Peter Carey)
About the Author
Andrew Graham Dixon is one of the leading art critics and presenters of arts television programmes in the English-speaking world. He has presented six landmark series on art for the BBC, including the acclaimed A History of British Art, Renaissance, and Art of Eternity, as well as numerous individual documentaries on art and artists. For more than 20 years, he has published a weekly column on art, first in the Independent and, more recently, in the Sunday Telegraph. He has written a number of books on subjects ranging from medieval painting and sculpture, to contemporary art.
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The author's preoccupation with the influence of the art of the sacro monte is illuminating for this American reader because I had heretofore associated such displays with a type of tv proselyting or paper mache displays, a bit mawkish and maudlin. However Graham-Dixon certainly does shed much illumination on Caravaggio's early development in northern Italy, the effect of living in a city culturally and religiously ruled by Borromeo, and the lack training in the arts as was then common practice. There can be no doubt that the author takes those unfamiliar with this artist to a new understanding or those who have found this artist particularly unnerving or just aesthetically unappreciated as II had.
Needless to say if you admire Caravaggio, then you will enjoy this book as biography. If you wish to understand this work, then this book will answer many questions. It also is for the neophyte one of the best descriptions of how to appreciate still lives in particular or art is general. If there is some very soft English humor here, then you should mull over the claim that the toothed lizard in Caravaggio's still life "Boy Bitten By A Lizard" is an image of "vagina dentata."
I would not take issue with this or any other opinion Mr. Graham-Dixon might have concerning Caravaggio since it may end with rapiers flying. Suffice it say that the author has written a book that will not fail to satisfy a reader looking for an intelligent, provocative, and sophisticated book.
The book otherwise is intriguing and enchanting and an obvious labour of love. Even after enjoying Graham-Dixon's masterful approach, Caravaggio remains one of those elusive greats about whom I wonder: how could one person, of humble stock, recklessly living on the fringes 400 years ago, leave such an immense mark? My feeling is that he was touched by fire, and saw, heard, felt and in his own way communicated in mysterious but miraculous ways no one else could.
Just as the author impresses by showing how derivative Caravaggio could occasionally be (e.g., of Michaelangelo), it is also wonderful to read of the artist's profound continuing influence. Here is a snippet from the book from Martin Scorcese, the outstanding filmmaker, on the influence he carries over to his own works from Caravaggio's story-telling approach: "[Caravaggio] was choosing a moment that was not the absolute moment of the beginning of the action, it's during the action, in a way. You sort of come upon the scene midway and you're immersed in it." Wow!