Lives of the Painters

Alexandra Lapierre
"Born to the artist Orazio Gentileschi at the beginning of the 1600s, when artists were the celebrities of their day, Artemisia was apprenticed to her father at an early age. She showed such remarkable talent that he came to view her as the most precious thing he owned. But at the age of seventeen Artemisia was raped by her father's best friend and partner, Agostini Tassi. Soon the Gentileschi name was being dragged through scandal, for Artemisia refused, even when tortured, to deny that she had been raped. Indeed, she went farther: she dared to plead her case in court. For eight months all of Rome was riveted by the trial. Artemisia won the case, but in return she was ostracized from Rome and from her father.

"This is a story of the love-hate relationship between master and pupil, father and daughter, at a time when daughters belonged to their fathers and had no legal rights. Artemisia's talent was such that she overturned the prejudices of her time, winning the admiration of wealthy patrons, kings, and queens. Lapierre brings Artemisia Gentileschi to vivid life as she tells of the emotional struggle of this remarkable, fascinating woman."

Janet Laurence

When famed Italian artist Canaletto ventures to England on a business jaunt, he encounters more difficulties than just the language barrier. Upon arriving, Canaletto is attacked and robbed twice in the same day by a relentless pickpocket. When he is left for dead in a dark alley, the young woman who helped Canaletto earlier rescues the artist again. The visitor to England meets Jane Austen at dinner, helps uncover a spy, and finds that he has a talent for detective work.

Hayden Herrera

This engrossing biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo reveals a woman of extreme magnetism and originality, an artist whose sensual vibrancy came straight from her own experiences: her childhood near Mexico City during the Mexican Revolution; a devastating accident at age eighteen that left her crippled and unable to bear children; her tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera and intermittent love affairs with men as diverse as Isamu Noguchi and Leon Trotsky; her association with the Communist Party; her absorption in Mexican folklore and culture; and her dramatic love of spectacle.

On Film:
Salma Hayek delivers one of the best performances of her career in Frida, a vividly imaginative film based on Herrera's biography of the fascinating Frida Kahlo.

Susan Vreeland

Eight linked stories tracing the history of a painting by the 17th-century Dutch artist, Vermeer. In one, he paints his daughter to pay off debts, a second story describes the loss of the ownership papers, a third takes place on the eve of its theft by the Nazis.

Tracy Chevalier

"[This novel] narrates the creation of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. The "Girl" in Chevalier's version is 16-year-old Griet, who goes to live with the Vermeer household as a maid and becomes increasingly intimate with Vermeer as she takes on duties as a private assistant."

Michael Frayn

An unlikely con man wagers wife, wealth, and sanity in pursuit of an elusive Old Master.

Invited to dinner by the boorish local landowner, Martin Clay, an easily distracted philosopher, and his art-historian wife are asked to assess three dusty paintings blocking the draught from the chimney. But hiding beneath the soot is nothing less--Martin believes--than a lost work by Bruegel. So begins a hilarious trail of lies and concealments, desperate schemes and soaring hopes as Martin, betting all that he owns and much that he doesn't, embarks on a quest to prove his hunch, win his wife over, and separate the painting from its owner.

Meaghan Delahunt

The exile of Leon Trotsky and his young wife to the Casa Azul, the Mexican home of muralist Diego Rivera and artist Frida Kahlo is the backdrop for this tale of the political antagonism between Stalin and Trotsky.

Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Take an in-depth look at the life of Jackson Pollock, one of the most influential and controversial artists of the twentieth century.

On Film:
Pollock, the 2000 film based on Naifeh and Smith's biography, stars Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden. Ed Harris delivers one of the best performances of his life and Harden's portrayal of Pollock's wife, Lee Krasner, earned her the 2001 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. For more on Jackson Pollock, be sure to watch the documentary Jackson Pollock: Love and Death on Long Island.

John DeSimone

Victor LaBont is a world--class artist who attributes his creative ability to a chair he owns. When his home catches fire and Victor is severely burned trying to rescue the chair, he realizes the chair was stolen before the house was burned.

R.M. Berry

"On May 2, 1519 at the Clos Luce in Amboise, Leonardo is dying. He no longer cares about art or science. He wants only to answer a simple question about his life: why did he abandon his colossal equestrian statue in Milan? Meanwhile, R-, a 20th century historian writing a novel about Leonardo, meditates upon the same question in the midst of an apocalyptic traffic jam, as military helicopters fill the air with tear gas, AIDS demonstrators run amok, and a hospital evacuates its patients onto a nearby sidewalk."

Susan Vreeland
"...a deeply moving, richly textured collection of stories that explore art through the eyes of ordinary people. Rather than focusing directly on great Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists like Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, and Modigliani, Vreeland shifts her lens to those on the periphery-—their lovers, servants, children, and neighbors-—showing their personal stories as they play out against the artists' lives. Counterbalancing these historic stories are an equal number of contemporary tales in which her characters-—a teacher, a construction worker, and an orphan-—encounter art in meaningful, sometimes surprising ways."
Harriet Scott Chessman
Set in the Parisian art world of the 1880s, this novel imagines a poignant time in the lives of the American impressionist Mary Cassatt and her sister, Lydia. Fatally ill and conscious of impending death, Lydia contemplates her narrowing world.
Irving Stone

Dramatizes the life of the Renaissance artistic genius Michelangelo, recalls his love affairs, his disputes with cardinals and popes, and his years of working on the Sistine Chapel.

Jack Dann

In a historical novel blending fact and fiction, Leonardo builds the flying machine he long dreamt of and journeys from the Renaissance West to the mythical East, where he is captured by Persians and sees his invention used for ill.

Susan Vreeland
"...chronicles the extraordinary life of Artemisia Gentileschi, the first woman to make a significant contribution to art history. At age eighteen, Artemisia Gentileschi finds herself humiliated in papal court for publicly accusing the man who raped her-Agostino Tassi, her painting teacher. When even her father does not stand up for her, she knows she cannot stay in Rome and begs to have a marriage arranged for her. Her new husband, an artist named Pietro Stiatessi, takes her to his native Florence, where her talent for painting blossoms and she becomes the first woman to be elected to the Accademia dell'Arte. But marriage clashes with Artemisia's newfound fame as a painter, and she begins a lifelong search to reconcile painting and motherhood, passion and genius."
Leslie Forbes

La Muta, the mute woman.
"Amidst a country rocked by scandal and corruption, inhabitants of the idyllic city of Urbino, Italy, birthplace of Raphael, are more concerned with a sudden outbreak of miracles than with politics. But what unspeakable secret lies hidden in Raphael's enigmatic painting? Its restoration will drive a living mute to a shocking act of violence and spark an investigation into a nearly forgotten war crime and a series of events that will shatter the silence gripping this community forever. Both a mesmerizing thriller and a passionate exploration of the power of truth to effect reconciliation and restore faith, Waking Raphael spins a tantalizing web of silence and lies to recreate an Italy where the romantic and the violent, the comic and the tragic, are spell-bindingly interwoven."