Helen Langdon’s Caravaggio

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With reference to Helen Langdon’s Caravaggio and one other biographical monograph of your choice, critically discuss and evaluate the method each author adopts for interpreting artworks.

In her Introduction to Caravaggio: A Life Langdon lays out her reasons for writing about the artist. He became, ‘the most powerful religious artist of his age’, but he was also, ‘feared as a difficult and strange personality’.[1] She tells us that Caravaggio was a very influential artist, highly original in his time for his attention to naturalism, and his approach to composition. At the same time the story of his life is fascinating in its own right. Langdon attempts to bring him and his environment to life, while also trying to restrict herself to the ascertainable facts. She chooses to construct a narrative, taking a chronological approach to Caravaggio’s life and works, and relating the context of the times and events in his life to his art.

Athanassoglou-Kallmyer chooses to write about Cézanne because she feels that as an extremely influential artist, certain aspects of his art have been neglected, ‘the regionalist dimension, so instrumental in fully understanding Cézanne’s enterprise, has been ignored or inadequately explored so far’.[2] Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture, also takes a biographical approach to Cézanne’s life and works, although the narrative element is far less clear cut. It is organised into six chapters, each of which covers a particular theme. Works of art are not dealt with chronologically, but rather are chosen because of aspects relating to that chapter’s theme. Certain sections of Cézanne’s life are not covered. She does however devote the final chapter to events toward the end of Cezanne’s life, when he was finally gaining the approbation of some of his peers.

The Cardsharps is one of Caravaggio’s earlier
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