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Helen Langdon's ‘Caravaggio’

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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 free course, Helen Langdon's 'Caravaggio', explores the biographical monograph, one of the most common forms of art history writing.

After studying this course, 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.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 20 hours
  • Updated Monday 8th February 2016
  • Advanced level
  • Posted under Literature
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Helen Langdon's ‘Caravaggio’


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This course 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 course 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 OpenLearn course provides a sample of postgraduate level study in Arts and Humanities [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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