One of the best ways I know of getting deeper into the world of art is by reading a biography of an artist. In recent years, when I was doing research on artists for Common Place Quarterly, I read a biography of each artist covered in my articles. From these, I learned so much about the person behind the art as well as specific movements, techniques, and the world at that time in history. Knowing more about the artist gave their art a depth that I did not experience before and provided me with an appreciation for paintings or sculpture that I only gave a passing glance in the past.
When I wasn’t sure if the Back to the Classics Challenge would be posted again this year (it was!), instead of signing up for another random challenge, I decided that I might make a little challenge for myself. Since I’m no longer writing for Common Place Quarterly, that accountability to read an artist biography also no longer exists, so this is the direction I decided to go for my own challenge. And as is the way of bloggers, I’m sharing my challenge here to see if anyone else would like to play along as well!
I realize that most of the 2022 reading challenges have already been posted, commitments have been made, and I’m a little late to the game. But I’m only including seven categories in this challenge, so I feel it’s not too much to add….I hope. 😊
You can find the categories as well as a few ideas for some of them in the list below. I also have a free printable checklist at the end of the post as well!
1. A biography of an artist from the 20th century
This would be a book about an artist who was active during the 20th century. It could include biographies, autobiographies, collections of letters or journals, or anything that gives you a better idea of who that artist was beyond their work. They may have been born in the 19th century, but as long as they were active during the 20th century, they would fall into this category. This would include artists such as:
Obviously, this list is not even close to being exhaustive! If you have a favorite 20th-century artist, start there.
2. A biography of an artist from the 19th century
Same rules as above. A few suggestions:
Again, this is not an exhaustive list! Start with someone whose art intrigues you and go from there.
3. A biography of an artist from the 18th century or earlier
This also follows the same rules as above, but you can go as far back as you’d like!
4. A book of fiction about an art movement, a piece of art, or an artist
This is what I think of as the “fun” category. Obviously, fictional accounts most likely take a lot of artistic license (no pun intended), but I have been surprised at how much research some authors have done to instill quite a bit of truth in their tales. Goodreads has suggestions here (I do not recommend anything by Dan Brown).
5. A book about an artist from your state/province/region
This could be a biography or simply a large-format book that contains a collection of paintings (usually with a short biography) from a single artist.
6. A book about a piece of art, group of artists, or a single artist from a country that is not your own
Basically, this is the above category but reversed.
7. A book about an art controversy (e.g., art theft, forgery, repatriation, etc.).
This is another “fun” category if you’re into this sort of thing (if anyone else is…😶). It could include things like the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft (sadly still not recovered), forgeries of Vermeer paintings, and repatriation of ancient Greek statuary.
You can download the printable checklist by clicking on the link below. Feel free to participate in any or all of the categories, and I hope you learn something new about art before the end of the year!
If you choose to take part in the challenge, feel free to share your choices for each category (or, if you have a website, a link to a post where you share your choices) in the comments below!