Derik Badman's Journal

2020-10-15 09:17

My review of Ephameron's Us Two Together went up at The Comics Journal, the second of two reviews I wrote while on vacation. I'm quite proud of this one, I think it works well as critique, both positive and negative, about a book which I had very mixed feelings about.

The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites by Elizabeth Prettejohn caught my eye the other morning as I was idly looking at the bookshelves, so I pulled it out and have started reading. It's not a catalogue or based on an exhibition, but rather a monograph, text interspersed with a lot of art. In the first chapter Prettejohn discusses the origin of the group ("Brotherhood") and makes a case for the Pre-Raphaelites as an avant-garde (which I don't totally agree with, as my impression is the avant-garde has a political element which seems missing in this case). She also, with a selection of images from contemporaneous painters, discusses how different their early style was from what else would have been showing in England at the time. To the modern eye at least, their work seems so much more lively and interesting than their contemporaries. Another focus of the book is the woman involved with the group, who, of course have gotten much less attention than Rossetti, Millais, Hunt, etc. So far I am quite enjoying it. I realized I never actually read this book. With many of the art books I have, often just looking at the images in more worthwhile than trying to read the text, but I think that is not the case here, or at least the text is worth reading as well as looking at the images. I wouldn't say I was ever a massive fan of the group, but I did buy this book (at some point, for some reason), and I am really appreciating the work I see, the compositions, the texture of the paint (in many of the early ones it seems very rough, with many brushstrokes rather than the very smooth looking surface of their contemporaries), the figures in all their occasional strangeness, as well as the attention to little details (one of the paintings (I need to look it up) is outside with the ground littered with all these leaves).

Still reading the Caravaggio book too, which is a whole different kind of style, but no less bold and impressive. Reading the text in that book is also very helpful, both for the biographical aspects of the artist (what there is to know), but for explicating the religious iconography and narrative in so many of the painter's work. I have a passing familiarity with many of the subjects, but understanding all the details of them, and the ways Caravaggio strayed from the orthodox, requires a much greater knowledge, that the descriptions of the paintings help elucidate.