When Pictures Say More Than A Thousand Words

It’s often been said that a picture says a thousand words but the art world – and certain pictures within it – have often inspired authors to write many more than a thousand words!

Here’s selection of novels about artists, paintings and a whole palette of emotions!

Let Me Tell You About A Man I knew by Susan Fletcher

5199g2QmCJL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Based on the time that Van Gogh spent in an mental asylum in Provence after cutting off his ear, this tells the story of Mme Traubec and her friendship with the troubled painter. Usually in stories like this it is the friend that save the artist but in this story it is the artist that saves the friend, not by doing anything special, but by the power of art itself.

… read our full review here

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

imageHannah Rothschild took the unusual step in this book of letting the painting have a voice of its own.

It’s a painting that’s hung on some of the most aristocratic walls imaginable before ending up in a junk shop then in a small flat in London before finally being rediscovered.

Read our full review here

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith

imageSara De Vos was a 17th Century Dutch painter and the first woman to be admitted to the Guild of St. Luke. Her last painting – “At the Edge of a Wood” is a haunting landscape showing a girl overlooking a frozen river. It is a memorial to her dead daughter. In 1950s New York Marty de Groot, a wealthy Manhattan lawyer in an unhappy marriage, has inherited the painting and has it hanging above his bed. But the real star of this book is Ellie Shipley, an artist who has turned to forgery to survive. She forges a copy of At The Edge of a Wood and through her eyes we see the painter’s skill.

Read our full review here

Midnight Blue by Simone van der Vlugt

cover99665-mediumA journey through the Golden Age of Amsterdam to the renaissance of pottery making in Delft. This story told from the perspective of young widow and talented artist Catrijn, allows us to mingle with Rembrandt and Vermeer without losing touch of what life was like for the everyday people.

Chronicling the innovations that led to the creation of Delft Blue pottery, the horrific explosion that left so many in Delft dead (including Fabritious, echoed in Donna Tarts excellent The Goldfinch, another artsy book worth reading) and the plague striking Europe, this book shows art as an essential refuge from the troubles of life and a basic human right.

Read our full review here

Charlotte by David Foenkinos

img_2356This is one of the most unusual novels I have ever read. It slips between biography, fictionalised biography and memoir of it’s own construction from page to page.

Yet by doing so it seems to both illuminate Charlotte Saloman and obscure her at the same time. Which, quite frankly, made me desperate to find out more about her. It wasn’t long before I was googling her art to see at least some of it with my own eyes.

It looked pretty similar to how I had imagined it – blunt, honest and vibrant. So the author had done a pretty good job! But this isn’t solely a story about art, it’s also the story of fascism stamping art out. It deserves to be read.

Read our full review here.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Dorian Gray“How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray, with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrid, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June … If it was only the other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture that were to grow old! For this – for this – I would give everything!”

Read our full review here.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

imageArtists and revolutionaries have often lived hand in glove, each inspiring the other. This book delves into these relationships in a number of ways. Set simultaneously during the Spanish civil war and during the very different cultural revolution of 1960’s London, we meet a young artist infatuated with a local revolutionary whose sister is in turn infatuated with the artist. Masterpieces are produced, then lost to the winds of war. When one turns up in London decades later secrets are uncovered and social mores are destroyed.

Read our full review here

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham

IMG_2406 This book doesn’t paint artist’s as a particularly nice breed – actually no – it’s more accurate to say that it paints artistic geniuses as rude, selfish and uncompromising! Humility here is only for those that are technically adequate but without vision, the tortured soul of the artist is not so much tortured more superciliously annoyed by interruptions! This might make it sound like an unpleasant read but it has some redeeming features, not least among them the descriptions of Tahiti and it’s people- descriptions that ironically automatically call to mind Gaugin’s paintings!

Read our full review here

There are lots of other great books to help you bring the art galleries to your sofa, a couple that are so famous it seemed pointless including them are Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (which did get a mention earlier) and Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with the Pearl Earring.

if you’ve read any others you think should make the list let us know in the comments!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Dorian GrayYoung Dorian Gray infatuates everyone that meets him, such is his youthful charm and simple beauty. Artist Basil Hallward is equally as smitten and paints a full length portrait of him in gratitude for him being his muse. But while he is painting it Lord Henry Wotton,  a cynical and hedonistic aristocrat calls and Gray becomes fascinated by his opinion that beauty and sensual fulfilment are the only things worth pursuing in life. The thought of his own beauty fading horrifies Gray and he cries out wishing that his portrait could get old rather than him.

This work is incredibly well known, almost everyone has heard of it and knows the basic story even if they’ve never read it – that being so what is the point in actually reading it? Well of course the book goes further than the basic premise. Apart from the obvious exploration of societies obsession with youth and beauty, there’s quite a deep exploration of morality, though done with Wilde’s typically light and mocking touch.

The language in this is elegant but not overly formal (although if one more person had ‘flung’ themselves into a chair I might have screamed!) so it remains easily readable. The characters are believable and although they are not always likeable they do lead you through the story.

4 Bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.