Thursday, March 22, 2012

Inspiring Artists

I have no artistic talent. I admit it. I am not crafty. I can't take a picture without the people having red eyes. I can't play an instrument nor even hum a song in a tune. So I am envious of people who can. I pass by paintings all the time here at Alderney Gate, whether they are hanging on the library walls, at the Pedway Gallery or the Craig Gallery. I love to see the images and colours. While I would find reading instructional books on art to be like watching paint dry (I know, a bad pun!) I enjoyed reading the fictional accounts of the following artists:

I love the title of the novel Lust for Life (M) by Irving Stone. "Lust for life" is invigorating, being passionate about everything. And that can aptly describe this beautiful book. This novelization about Vincent Van Gogh is well researched. Stone gives an excellent description of the landscape and people who influenced Vincent, especially Van Gogh’s relationship with his brother Theo. For those unfamiliar with Van Gogh, he was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, most notable for emotional works of rough beauty and bold colour. He produced more than 21,000 works of art. Most notably his self portraits, Sunflowers and Starry Nights. Van Gogh paintings are among the world's most expensive ever sold, with "The Portrait of Dr. Gachet" selling for over $100 million!

A contemporary of Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin is best known for his paintings of Tahitian native women. This French post impressionist was an important figure in the Symbolist movement of the early 1900's. Mario Varqus Llosa present a portrait of Gaugin’s life in The Way to Paradise (M). This novel is actually a double biography, alternating chapters between Gauguin and his grandmother Flora Tristan, one of the founders of feminism. The contrasts and similarities between the two lives make for a very interesting read.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (M) by Tracy Chevalier is less the story of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer than the inspiration of his masterpiece "Girl with a Pearl Earring"(or as it is sometimes referred to, "the Mona Lisa of the North"). Very little is know about Vermeer, who did not make a living from his painting, as there are only 35 paintings know to exist. The novel tells the story of Griet, a 16 year old Dutch girl who becomes a maid for the Vermeer family. She becomes an inspiration for the painter, which draws the jealousy of both his wife and the rest of the staff. As USA Today states "Chevalier's imagination adds life to an already brilliant painting in this elegantly developed and beautifully written novel."

I wanted to end this blog with a Canadian artist, Tom Thomson. Thomson was an influential Canadian artist, one who inspired the group of painters who later would be known as the Group of Seven. Ontario newspaper columnist Roy MacGregor wrote Canoe Lake (M), a fictional account about Thomson. This novel was originally published as Shorelines. Thomson disappeared during a canoe trip on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park of July 8, 1917 and his body was discovered eight days later. In the later edition MacGregor reveals that he is the great nephew of Winnie Trainor, a woman Thomson was engaged to, and who was reported pregnant at the time of Thomson's death. This personal touch makes the story just a little bit more interesting in my mind.

For years after Thompson's death there was a lingering controversy about where his body was actually buried. In 1970 Judge William Little published The Tom Thomson Mystery (M), about the digging up Thomson's original grave site in 1956. Medical investigators at the time determined that the body was that of an unknown aboriginal man. MacGregor has refuted the 1956 evidence and with new information revealed in 2009, concluded that the body was actually Thomson*.

For further reading, checkout MacGregor's 2010 Northern Light: the enduring mystery of TomThmson and the woman who loved him (M). So even after death Thomson presented a mystery for the world. What is not mysterious is the influence he has had on Canada and it's art world.

Whether you are a doer or admirer of the arts, I hope that these books will inspire you to examine these artists' works just a little bit closer.

No comments:

Post a Comment