March 26, 2010
The Man Who Made Vermeers tells the story of Han van Meegeren, the Dutch master forger. Author Jonathan Lopez tells the true story of van Meegeren’s career–a story that was suppressed and ignored for decades.
The van Meegeren legend stated that he turned to forgery because of disappointing feedback from art critics on his original work and that he then subsequently fooled the Nazis by selling one of his fake Vermeers to Hermann Goering. Both of these aspects of the legend caused van Meegeren to be cheered in post-WWII Holland, but especially the latter, for obvious reasons. However, the truth is much more sordid. Lopez reveals that van Meegeren was, in fact, a collaborationist, and his legend was a story concocted by both himself and the man who exposed him.
This book is a must-read for anyone with a fascination for art history. In addition to his crimes of being a Nazi sympathizer and master forger, van Meegeren attempted to rewrite history by inventing an entirely new period of work for Vermeer. With extensive endnotes and a select bibliography, it is evident that the author did his homework. Don’t let that put you off though! This book is anything but dry.
March 4, 2010
The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr is yet another nonfiction book that reads like fiction.
Ever since I took an art history class to fulfill a core requirement when I was a sophomore in college, I have been fascinated by art history. So it was with pleasure that I read Harr’s account of the hunt for a lost Caravaggio masterpiece. The reader learns how a graduate student discovers a clue to the lost painting while doing research on another masterpiece at a family archive that few scholars had visited. The reader also learns about the art restorer who fortuitously stumbles upon the lost masterpiece and immediately recognizes it for what it is.
Harr is a compelling storyteller, bringing a level of excitement to the otherwise mundane tasks of research and restoration. I read this very quickly. Anyone who likes art history or fast-paced nonfiction should give this a try.
October 28, 2009
Image from HarperCollins
This past Sunday I read The Gardner Heist. I had kind of been in a reading rut. Before this book, I read a Dorothy Sayers mystery, which I really enjoyed, but for some reason it took me forever to finish it. The Gardner Heist was just what I needed. I got so into the book that I couldn’t go to bed until I’d finished it.
I’ve always been fascinated by art crimes, while at the same time being very saddened by them. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I enjoy art and art museums and anyone who, by stealing, deprives the public of appreciating masterpieces just really bothers me.
Anyway, I highly recommend this book. You will not be able to put it down. Though it is nonfiction, it is a very quick read (as evidenced by the fact that I read it in less than a day) and moves at a quick pace.
Read about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Wikipedia.
October 7, 2009
I had a fabulous weekend in DC. I spent Friday afternoon at the National Gallery of Art. I had only been there once before and very briefly so this time I was able to take my time and see more. A few of my favorite paintings: