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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Arty Fiction

Today, my children have an Institute Day, so we are heading with friends on the train into Chicago to spend the day at The Art Institute of Chicago.  Planning our day took my thought to some of the wonderful historical fiction about art and artists that is widely available.

The two authors who do the best job consistently writing about art and artists are Susan Vreeland and Tracy Chevalier. Both writers are able to tell a compelling story that is centered around a piece of art.  But most importantly, they are able to use their prose as a means to capture the beauty and expression of the visual medium.  This is quite a feat. Their skill at revealing a work of art with words alone is impressive.

Here are some other novels I would suggest to readers looking for arty fiction.  Please note, I am not trying to be comprehensive with this list, rather I am striving to offer a broad selection of titles which prominently feature art.  Since Chevalier and Vreeland are both so popular, I often find that readers think if they do not like these two authors, they are not going to like any arty books.  That is absolutely incorrect.  Just like every other type of book, there is something for every reader who wants a novel featuring art or artists.

  • For those who want a little more romance with their art, I would suggest The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant.
  • For those whose reading tastes veer more into adventure, The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte is a great choice.
  • For those who want to read about art in the Islamic world, try My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk.
  • For those who want a creepy psychological suspense tale, The Portrait by Iain Pears is a dark look into the mind of a disturbed artist.
  • Want more of a traditional literary thriller? Try The Dark Clue by James Wilson.
  • For a fictionalized biography of a Chinese artist try The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Epstein Cody.  As a side note, you can find a fictional biography for just about any artist; I am simply choosing this one as an example.
As I said, this is just a sampling of what is out there.  I tried to offer something different with each suggestion.

If this list intrigues you, I also want to point you to the Masterpieces In Detail calendar that we got for our house this year.  The entire family is enjoying the pictures and the wonderfully written narratives about the art, artists, and time period in which these works were produced.  It is like going to the art museum every day.

Please let me know if you have any favorite arty novels to share.

1 comment:

Emily B said...

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr. Nonfiction that reads like fiction. Great story about a young graduate student doing research in Italy. She is looking for a lost painting by the artist Caravaggio. This book paints an amazing picture of the passion that people have for art and research, and a colorful picture of many parts of Italy. This book made me want to be there researching all of the art and clues to find the lost painting.