Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Art and artists in literature

As part of the background preparation for the fairy tale course I teach I've been reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard and enjoying it immensely—Vonnegut is a really good story teller, who keeps things interesting on different levels—plot, bigger themes, and characterization. I highly recommend it!  (It's a fictional first person account of the life of the equally fictional abstract expressionist painter Rabu Karabekian). 
Anyway it has gotten me thinking about what other novels, or shorter fictional texts are out there that deal with painters or illustrators. The first one I just happened to stumble across a review of is one I have yet to read: William GaddisThe Recognitions which apparently deals with a master forger of artists like Hieronymous Bosch.
Another shorter “artist’s story” is Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kröger, where the main protagonist is a writer (of a sort) but in its fourth chapter he has a crucial discussion with a female Russian painter, who was apparently based on the real artist Elisabeth Iwanowa Epstein.
My final example of a text that focuses this time on a painting itself as a spring board into a meditation on many other topics is Terry Tempest William’s Leap – which is described here as an “unexpected pilgrimage through the landscape of a painting”. The painting at the center of the narrative is Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delight's. 
I'd be interested in hearing of other examples of fictional or essayistic texts that focus on visual artists and or their creations. I'm sure there are many. 

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