Book: The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo
Author: Irving Stone
Synopsis: A compelling portrait of Michelangelo’s dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known.
Book: Rodin’s Lover
Author: Heather Webb
Synopsis: The tale of Camille Claudel, who becomes the muse and apprentice of famous sculpture Auguste Rodin. It’s about the struggle of Woman artists to find their way in the world and find their own success while they see their partners achieve stardom.
Author: Barbara Stok
Synopsis: This graphic novel of the life of Vincent Van Gogh focuses on his time in Arles in Southern France. Using bright colors and bold shapes, the text shows Van Gogh trying to make a life for himself while suffering from mental illness. It follows the tragedy of his attempt to live with Paul Gaugin in an artistic paradise of the Yellow House.
Book: The Weeping Woman
Author: By Zoe Valedes
Synopsis: The story of Dora Maar, a Surrealist artist in her own right, who ends up becoming entangled with Picasso. Her image is commemorated in his paintings but he shatters her life. It follows her journey to Venice with Picasso devotees, which results in her becoming a reclusive until her death.
Author: Ken Follet
Synopsis: The story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known. It is also the story of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect—a man divided in his soul. And the story of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame. As well as the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state and brother against brother.
Book: Signora Da Vinci
Author: Robin Maxwell
Synopsis: A young woman named Caterina was only fifteen years old in 1452 when she bore an illegitimate child in the tiny village of Vinci. His name was Leonardo, and he was destined to change the world forever.
Caterina suffered much cruelty as an unmarried mother and had no recourse when her boy was taken away from her. But no one knew the secrets of her own childhood, nor could ever have guessed the dangerous and heretical scheme she would devise to protect and watch over her remarkable son. This captivating novel imagines the story of Caterina—the brilliant young woman, the adventurer, the alchemist—during the fascinating period of the Renaissance.
Book: An Object of Beauty: A Novel
Author: Steve Martin (yes, Steve Martin the comedian)
Synopsis: Lacey Yeager is young, captivating, and ambitious enough to take the NYC art world by storm. Groomed at Sotheby’s and hungry to keep climbing the social and career ladders put before her, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich and even richer with her magnetic charisma and liveliness. Her ascension to the highest tiers of the city parallel the soaring heights–and, at times, the dark lows–of the art world and the country from the late 1990s through today.
Book: The Goldfinch: A Novel
Author: Donna Tarte
Synopsis: A young New Yorker grieving his mother’s death is pulled into a gritty underworld of art and wealth in this “extraordinary” and beloved Pulitzer Prize winner that “connects with the heart as well as the mind” (Stephen King, New York Times Book Review).
Book: The Tattoo Artist: A Novel
Author: Jill Ciment
Synopsis: Climent’s novel narrates the vanguard life of a New York surrealist artist whose 30 years among South Pacific natives teaches her the sacred art of tattooing. Born at the turn of the century to Jewish immigrants, freethinking Sara escapes her seamstress job via Philip Ehrenreich, a banker’s son turned Marxist revolutionary who moves her into his Greenwich Village flat and introduces her to the New York art scene. They make a fabulous avant-garde couple until the New York art world goes bust in the run-up to WWII, and they take off for the South Seas in search of native art and their lives take a sharp detour when they are marooned on the island of Tu’un’uu.
Book: The Lacuna
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Synopsis: Set across America and Mexico from the 1930s to the 1950s, The Lacuna is epic. Central to the story is Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, who offer the narrator a job mixing plaster at their studio. Fact weaves with fiction as we’re drawn into their layered, colourful lives. It’s a joy to read about iconic historical figures in this way, to get to know them as characters as well as artists: “How does an artist learn enough about life to fill a thimble? He needs to go rub his soul against it.”