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Join Xanadu Gallery’s Virtual Book Club

by Jason Horejs on October 5, 2011 · 27 comments

I have always been fascinated by the lives of the great artists, and I am going to admit that this fascination can sometimes border on an obsession. My bookcase contains the biographies of many of my favorite artists, and you will usually find an artist’s biography on my bedside table.  Understanding an artist’s background gives me a better understanding and appreciation of their art, and art history is one of my favorite topics of discussion. I would like to invite you to join me in my obsession by signing up for Xanadu Gallery’s new Virtual Book Club. The book club will give members an opportunity to learn about artists in depth and discuss the artists' backgrounds, influences and lives with other art-lovers Participation is simple, and completely free. Sign up by following the steps below. Our first book for discussion is Andrew Graham-Dixon’s new book, Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane.  I recently picked up a copy of the book and I have had a hard time putting it down. Graham-Dixon’s writing style is fast-paced and informative as he takes a fresh look at this artist whose work marked a turning point in Renaissance art. Critical acclaim for the book:
[Andrew Graham-Dixon is] The most gifted art critic of his generation. (Robert Hughes )

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane reads like a historical-swashbuckler-cum-detective-story while also providing an up-to-date introduction to some of the most admired paintings in Western art.
(Michael Dirda - Washington Post )

Graham-Dixon combed the criminal records of the era to glean extraordinary details about the artist’s run-ins with the law. He skillfully evokes the social and religious context of turn-of-the-17th-century Italy. (Ann Levin - Associated Press )

Step #1 – Sign up for the book club meeting.  Registration is completely free, and there is no commitment of any kind.

Register Now
By signing up for the meeting you will be registered in the club and will receive updates and discussion topics. The online book club meeting is Tuesday, November 29th at 4:00 p.m. Pacific (don’t worry I will send out reminders with the start time for the meeting in your time-zone as the meeting gets closer).

Step #2 – Order the book:

You’ll want to order the book as soon as possible so that you have enough time to complete the reading before the club meeting.

Step #3 – Start reading.

I have allowed enough time for you to order and receive the book and still have about six weeks to complete your reading. If you dedicate yourself to read about 10 pages a day you will finish the book right in time for the book club.

Step#4 (Optional) Send me a photo.

Send me a photo of you holding the book which we will share with the club – this way you can feel like you get to know other members of the club by more than just their login names. Email the photo to me at jason@xanadugallery.com.

Step #5 – Join in the conversation on our blog.

Share your thoughts and impressions of the book in the comments section at the bottom of the Book Club page at: http://www.xanadugallery.com/wordpress/?p=1019

Step #6 – Join the group on your computer for the virtual book club meeting (bring your own refreshments!)

You will receive login instructions prior to the meeting. During the discussion you will have an opportunity to voice your impressions and discoveries (or just sit back and listen if you prefer). I will casually moderate the discussion and look forward to letting you do most of the talking. We will discuss:
  • The historical setting into which Caravaggio was born -
  • His early life and apprenticeship
  • Murder (Caravaggio is thought to have killed, along with other crimes)
  • His temperament
  • His art
  • His impact on his culture and on history
  • Much more.
I hope you will join me as we enrich our understanding of art history and great artists together! Have a suggestion for a book or subject for a future club meeting? Email me at jason@xanadugallery.com. Jason J. Jason Horejs Owner Xanadu Gallery
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About 

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Deborah Kepes October 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

Thank you Jason for beginning a wonderful opportunity for artists to converse on a level that many of us never have the time. Locked in the studio or gallery for long hours to produce our work, creates great artwork, but leaves us with very little time to enjoy the conversation of like minds. I know many of us could speak for hours on our favorite artists, but this will give us a chance to learn about artists that we ordinarily wouldn’t take the time. Now lets hope we can take the time….

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Evelyn Markasky October 14, 2011 at 10:26 am

Ok, I got the book and I’ve started reading it, although, I must admit, I haven’t gotten very far yet!

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Diane Reardon October 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Hello, all.
This is a hefty one! I’m also 150 pages in and enjoying the unexpected history details like when vocal music shifted from groups to the solo voice. As for the author’s readings of the paintings, I find I’m often arguing with him, especially about symbols. So that’s a good thing. I’m engaged and reading on.

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Pat deRobertis October 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Got the book and I am very excited to start reading it…BUT, my husband picked it up immediately and so far has not relinquished it! He is Italian and loves this period in history…We will both enjoy it I am sure.
This was a great idea to do this!
THANK YOU!

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Germaine Trenary October 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I am fasinated. Even though the first part the history, if one is not familiar, is hard to get through, it is very interesting. The authors writing style is not easy to read so far. Am getting into more meat now on page 53.

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Marianne Post October 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm

My book has arrived and I have just cracked it open. I have to admit that the only biographical info I know about Caravaggio has been gleaned from Jonathan Harr’s book “The Lost Painting.” Looking forward to the conversations and posts.

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Joyce Wycoff October 15, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I’m reading the kindle version and keeping a website open so I can see the images the author is talking about. http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/c/caravagg/index.html

I have been particularly interested in the discussion of the quality of his seeing … the mirada fuerte … strong gazing … a quality the author says Caravaggio shares with Picasso. I just saw the Picasso show at the deYoung in San Francisco and while I don’t get Picasso’s extreme popularity, there is no doubt that there is a power there. I had never thought about the challenge it would be to hang other works of art near work like that.

Anyway, I’m delighted to be part of this book club … thanks for organizing it and inviting us in.

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Lorraine McFarland October 16, 2011 at 4:26 am

Thanks Jason, for forming the club. I remember discussing what your favorite biography was when I met you at “Starving” in St. Louis, but I don’t remember what you said – who was it? I have not picked up the book yet, but recently I read “The Lost Painting” by Jonathan Harr, the real life account of how a Caravaggio was rediscovered after having been lost for centuries. I highly recommend it for the insights into Caravaggio’s life as well as a look into the lives of modern day art historians and restoration work. Check Amazon.
I’m off to study with Richard McKinley for 2 weeks, (and to see Monet’s Water Lilies triptych together for the first time in 30 years at the St. Louis Art Museum – I’m so excited!) so am not sure if I will get much reading done, but I’m glad to be part of the club and look forward to learning more about the lives of the masters.

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ROBERT LINGLE October 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Jason:

Congratulations on creating an online art appreciation seminar and on choosing Michelangelo Merisi as the first subject for examination and judgement.

Just having received Andrew Graham-Dixon’s text, I have only had time to note four facts of great interest to me: the praise of Graham-Dixon’s historical expertise by Robert Hughes, my favorite contemporary art critic; the fact that Graham-Dixon has included many reproductions in his text; my good fortune to have personally viewed 19 of the originals of the latter; and, what to me is a very cogent analysis of a Carravagio viewing: “Looking at his pictures is like looking at the world by flashes of lightning.”

Robert

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Scarlett Decker October 17, 2011 at 5:55 am

Hi Jason,

What a great idea! I always read artist’s bios but haven’t read anything about Carravaggio other than I’ve gleaned as an art student, years ago. I’m currently finishing a bio about Joan Mitchell (not too interesting so far) but I did peek in the Carravaggio book and am actually reading it ahead of the Joan Mitchell book now. I’m a very fast reader so the November deadline will be no problem at all. It’s great to be able to discuss artists I love with others! Thanks for this idea and for organizing the discussions.

Scarlett

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Martha Putnam October 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Hi Jason

I got the book and am into it about 80 pages. The November time frame should be no problem. Thank you for starting this club. I do also appreciate reading about an artist that I barely remember anything about (except his work) from my art history classes in college 30 years ago. This book is really bring alive not only the history of his time but also the personal history of the man alive for me. It will also be interesting connecting with the other artists on this forum. It might also be interesting to know where people live too.

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Mary Manning October 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

Dear Jason, So far, I am fascinated with this book as I knew next to nothing about Caravaggio, except his powerful paintings. In addition to reading this excellent work, when a pope is mentioned, I refer to John Julius Norwich’s “Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy,” to fill in the religious background. As an artist, living in these interesting times, Caravaggio has plenty to teach us how to survive.

Thank you for starting this adventure.
Mary

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Teri October 26, 2011 at 6:00 am

I just finished this book and had trouble putting it down. I didn’t think I would like it at all but it was really gripping. The author made me look and relook at the illustrations…I missed so much at first view. In the past I have been skeptical when critics read so much into a painting but this critic convinced me the subtleties of composition and subject matter were so integral and showed such strong personal conviction on the part of the painter. That said regarding the incredible personality of M M, I wondered if his experience was affected by the materials he was using? Other artists of his stature had a studio and helpers to work in close proximity to the toxic paints and varnishes.

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Judy Mackey October 28, 2011 at 5:22 am

I love the book club idea. I have to agree with others that it’s a hefty read but interesting. What is exciting to me is that for years I lived in Fort Worth TX where the Kimball Museum is located. They have a Caravattigio piece in their permanent collection but I also found that they are having a Caravaggio Exhibit going on right now. I don’t live in Fort Worth right now but I’ll be visiting TX next week and am going to make sure I visit the museum while there. This will make this reading so much more special – to see his works.

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Pat Paxson October 29, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Hooray – I finally received my copy of the book – don’t know why it took so long. I am very impressed with the book as a whole – he is a wonderful and very well-informed author (I’ve read some of his other writing) – and the book looks so well organised – even maps, which always impresses me.
Now to begin reading!

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Elizabeth Weber November 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm

As I approached the section entitled Between Sacred and Profane, some thoughts that I had been gathering as I was reading up until that point started to flesh out a bit, although they still are tumbling around and not quite formed yet.

It struck me how the author was going into the symbolism to prove the ‘sacredness’ of a particular painting that may on another level seem ‘profane.’ I thought of the abstract expressionists and how their was an intense introspection and often spiritual nature to their work. I see that with Caravaggio’s work as well. He points to the beauty of our human experience even when it is not necessarily pretty. As an artist, a human, and a spiritual being, I experience that every day.

As artists we have the opportunity to reveal that miraculous beauty that lies beneath the surface of our everyday mundane experiences to others. We can represent through our works that human expreience that we all share in all of its aspects. Who is to say that Anna, a prostitute, the model in the Penitent Magdalen, did not herself experience that moment sometime in her life. That moment of absolute humility and surrender of the ego to a higher source…. And by using a real flesh and blood person of that day to represent that moment, it allowed the ‘common person’ of that time to access to that intimate moment. It allowed them and allows us to also bow our head and surrender to it…

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Pat Paxson November 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Just a quick note to say I’m hugely enjoying the book, on a myriad of levels – the research done on cultural, religious and social aspects of the period when Caravaggio was living and painting are enriching my viewing and understanding of his paintings – I don’t know that I’ve ever been privileged to engage in such a careful description of both paintings and circumstances of a painter’s life and work.
Thanks so much, Jason, for beginning this project!

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JO ALLEBACH November 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Thank you for starting this book club. I know I need to take time out from working in my studio. I usually read books on art – the technical aspects even though I love the history part. I am eager everyday to get my chance to read. The descriptions are great. The reading really is very interesting.

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Cindy Milazzo November 12, 2011 at 7:26 am

I’m glad Judy mentioned the Caravaggio exhibit at the Kimball. We plan to see it too but won’t make it before the book discussion session. Would love to hear a report on it.

Information on the Kimball site focuses on his painting and the specific aspects of his art that make him a major figure in art history. So far, I haven’t read a lot in the book that addresses that. Here’s the Kimball site.

http://caravaggio.kimbellart.org/exhibit

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Evadne (Eve) Maller November 26, 2011 at 10:00 am

I Am up to page 399…about another 50 to go. Will make a push to get it done over the weekend. It was a little long in some places. Parts of the court transcrips, I found were repetive and dull. But other then that I found the history of the period rich and interesting.I knew very little about the counter-Reformation and even less about Caravaggio and how his paintings developed from it. To say nothing about the Crusades and how they saved Christian Europe from being swallowed up by Islam.

Caravaggio was a violent man in violent times. He was saved time and time again because of his talent from have to pay the price of his uncontrolled temper. Eventually it caught up with him.
Eve

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Cody DeLong November 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Thanks Jason for an interesting and informative webinar. I’m glad to know more about the life and art of this facinating individual.

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Cindy Milazzo November 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Jason, thank you for an interesting discussion. Also, thanks to those who did the extra research. Marco and I learned a lot from the book and look forward to the next one. We plan to go the exhibit in Ft. Worth and will report back.

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Scarlett Decker December 1, 2011 at 5:59 pm

One final comment – Caravaggio produced masterful works, influenced countless future artists including Rubins and Rembrandt – but he had an incredibly poor work ethic! I’m surprised that the book didn’t go into further detail about tenebrism.

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Lori LaBerge December 14, 2011 at 8:11 am

This was a great read. What interested me the most was Caravaggio’s boldness in showing the imperfections of his subjects. He often painted those others may look down on or ignore such as prostitutes and street people. Perhaps he was drawn to this due to his own imperfections or had a strong interest in life in the shadows. Even the fruit in his work was marred. I tend to think of Mary Whyte’s paintings of the working South where she portrays people as they are with no glamour intended. They are compelling pieces. I’ll certainly begin to look at portrait painting in a new way, looking to see if the artist was searching for truth or searching for an idealized version of his/her subject. Looking forward to “DeKooning”. Thank you.

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Cindy Milazzo December 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Marco and I are back from the Caravaggio exhibition at the Kimball in Ft. Worth and want to report that it is well-worth seeing. There are about 8 Caravaggios and the rest are by painters influenced by him in style, subject matter and lighting. This is a great opportunity to see many great paintings in one exhibition. You really have to see paintings in person. Reproductions don’t give you complete information. The audio tour is also excellent. The only thing that would have completed the experience would have been a painting or two showing what painting was like before Caravaggio. We are in West Texas (closer to LA than to Dallas) and it is an 11-hour drive to Ft. Worth even with 80 mph speed limits. I mention this to let you know it was worth the two-day drive. The exhibition closes around Jan. 8.

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Cindy Milazzo December 17, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I forgot to mention that the Kimball has a good permanent collection too. The first painting done by “the” Michalangelo at age 13 is there. Also, there are interesting Richard Diebenkorn and John Marin traveling exhibitions at the Amon Carter Museum and Modern Art Museum, which are both walking distance from the Kimball. I’m not on the Ft. Worth cultural district payroll — just want to let people know what’s there.

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