from The Open University
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
Life In Cold Blood: Armoured GiantsMonday, 31st August 2015 08:00 - YesterdayThe heavyweights of the cold-blooded world. Read more: Life In Cold Blood: Armoured Giants
More or Less: Chinese market crash, e-cigarettes and runnersAvailable until Tuesday, 29th September 2015 20:30More or Less investigates the Chinese market crash, e-cigarettes, engineering and how sprinters run so fast. Read more: More or Less: Chinese market crash, e-cigarettes and runners
The world’s busiest railway 2015 – Mumbai Railway: Episode 1Available until Tuesday, 29th September 2015 19:00
Are our kids tough enough? Chinese school: Episode TwoAvailable until Monday, 28th September 2015 01:55
Canals: The Making of a Nation: The Boat PeopleAvailable until Sunday, 27th September 2015 20:00
OpenLearn Live: August Bank Holiday Special 2015Not so much live, but with a great collection of free courses, things to watch and listen to, and... Read more: OpenLearn Live: August Bank Holiday Special 2015
Are our kids tough enough? Chinese schoolIn a unique experiment, five teachers from China take over the education of 50 teenagers in a... Read more: Are our kids tough enough? Chinese school
Challenges in advanced management accountingThis free course, Challenges in advanced management accounting, focuses on strategic management... Try: Challenges in advanced management accounting now
Forensic psychologyDiscover how psychology can help obtain evidence from eyewitnesses in police investigations and... Try: Forensic psychology now
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.
- 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
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn and track your progress. Make your learning visible!
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 free course 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 courses or view the range of currently available OU Literature courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 4th July 2013
Last updated on: Thursday, 4th July 2013
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.