If you try sometimes you get what you need…

May 14, 2008 – 14:58

caravaggioI’m just thinking of the researchers who were meticulously scanning a 400 year old archive for details on one painting, and in the meantime, discovered documentation of another more important one. I’m referring to the book that I’ve just finished reading called ‘The Lost Painting’ by Jonathan Harr. It’s Fabulous. I consumed it in a very short time. It is full of details for those who like intimacy with paintings. It’s for those who like to hear about the minute explorations of art historians searching through archives and uncovering centuries old jottings that reveal paths to be followed. The author manages to describe the methodically executed historical research and documentation without being boring. The fact that he has not changed names to conceal identities attests to his careful quest for accuracy. He discusses the technical research done on the paint and the canvas, theories on the under-painting and how the work was executed. The author’s acute observation and detailed description extend to Italian life, and the art world surrounding the painting. His skill in describing it all bring an intimacy to the work which makes you feel really close to the research and the painting itself. You come away feeling you really know the story of this painting, like you might know the story of your best friend’s divorce, including who said what, when, to whom. The story of the ‘Taking of Christ’ is a story that spans almost 500 years, and knowing it brings you closer to the truth of how paintings were (and are) made. I recommend this book coupled with ‘Secret Knowledge’ by David Hockey, (ISBN-100-500-28638-8) for further insight on the creation of a work like the ‘Taking of Christ’. As an artist, I can’t help but agree with Hockney’s theories about the use of the lens in painting in Caravaggio’s day. It leaves me with no less respect for the skills of the artist, and helps to understand the role of the painter in the technical orchestration of a large scale important religious painting such as the one in question. The creation of a painting like that was, in fact, a ‘tour de force’ of body, heart and mind.

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  1. One Response to “If you try sometimes you get what you need…”

  2. I will have to make time to read this, thanks for the review, Alison.

    By Kim on May 20, 2008

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