- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Caravaggio's ‘Life’
- 2 Artists and their art
- 2.1 Understanding an artist's art
- 2.1 ‘Every painter paints himself’?
- 2.3 Biography and psychobiography
- 2.4 The intentional fallacy
- 2.5 Is the author dead?
- 2.6 Caravaggio's sexuality
- 2.7 Art, life and the interpretation of pictures
- 2.8 Further reading
- 3 Interpreting works of art within and outwith biography
- 4 Conclusion
- Next steps
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Helen Langdon's ‘Caravaggio’
Accounts of Caravaggio's life are filled with suggestions of murder and intrigue. But...
Accounts of Caravaggio's life are filled with suggestions of murder and intrigue. But does knowing more about this dark artist's experiences help us to interpret his art? Or does understanding his motivations cloud their true meaning? This unit explores the biographical monograph, one of the most common forms of art history writing.
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
- analyse the pros and cons of the biographical monograph in art history;
- examine the strengths and weaknesses of the biographical monograph in relation to other kinds of art history writing.
Helen Langdon's ‘Caravaggio’
This unit will concentrate on one of the most common forms of art history writing – a biographical monograph about a single artist's life and work. You will be focusing on the way that one author, Helen Langdon, has used biography in her book about one artist, Caravaggio. In order to get the most out of studying this unit you will need access to a copy of this book (ISBN 071266582x)
You will look in detail at the methods she has used to approach her subject and the different kinds of primary sources available to her. You will also be asked to think about how an artist's work relates to his or her life, and especially how useful it is to understand one in terms of the other.
In Section 1, you will be specifically exploring the methods Helen Langdon uses to construct her biography of Caravaggio and the way she has employed the sources available to her. Following on, in Section 2, you will consider in what ways an artist's life can help explain the art he or she produced. Section 3 will then compare other ways of interpreting works of art with those contained within a biographical structure, and consider the possibilities and limitations of the biographical monograph.
This study unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course A840 Postgraduate Foundation Module in Art History, which is no longer taught by the University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Literature course units or view the range of currently available OU Literature courses.