Book Review: One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan

parisWhen I was in my early 20’s, I broke up with my high school/college sweetheart and packed up my life for a semester abroad in Paris. I am all about books that take me back to Paris, especially those that are about a newly single woman navigating her new world in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. I was so excited when I received the galley for Sarah Morgan’s One Summer in Paris.

Morgan’s novel focuses around two women from different worlds: Grace and Audrey. Grace is an American who was looking forward to celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary with her husband whom she books a trip to Paris for. Only, he really surprises her when he tells her that he wants a divorce. Grace packs up her life and her heartbreak for Paris where she finds herself in an apartment of a bookshop. It is here she meets Audrey, a teenage Londoner, who is also working through her own heartbreak. Audrey with her limited French language skills begins to work in the bookstore and forms an unlikely friendship with Grace. Together, the two become their own sort of family.

Inevitably, David, Grace’s husband, decides that he doesn’t want to be with his mistress, Leesa, and wants to reconcile with Grace. This is where the story lost me a little. He is still sleeping with Leesa, but has decided that he rather be with Grace. I felt like he didn’t suffer enough to make up for his crimes and it was here that I was a bit turned off.

Overall, though, this novel is a light summer kind of read that will make you laugh out loud at the scenes between Grace and Audrey. The premise that landed them both there as well as how a small town part time teacher could afford to buy a summer aboard left me guessing, but if you can get past those plot holes, you will definitely enjoy this quick read about heartbreak, female friendship and the power of moving forward in your life even if your heart is broken.

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan is scheduled for release on April 9, 2019 from Harlequin with ISBN 9781335507549. This review was created after reading an advanced electronic copy of the novel from the publisher.

 

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El Greco to Velazquez – A Review

The Spanish court, specifically under the reign of Phillip IIIspain, is a period in art history where the mature El Greco and the young Velazquez flourished.The court of Phillip III “ushered in a time of elaborate celebrations and religious festivals, a major expansion in new building, and an unprecedented rage for art collecting in the Spanish court. Spain’s art became more naturalistic and expressive; the royal portraits are masterpieces of detailed elegance, and the religious figures have reality and solidity new to the genre,” according to the School Library Journal.

Scholarly Essays

In conjunction with the lavish world of Spanish court portraiture, Bass juxtaposes her rich subject matter with scholarly essays written by some of the nation’s leading art historians. Baer (senior curator, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and Schroth (senior curator, Nash Museum, Duke Univ.) lend their extensive knowledge on Spanish portraiture to the catalog with their thought-provoking and well-written essays on the subject. In addition to the inclusion of better-known names such as El Greco and Velazquez, Bass and her contributors also include lesser known artists who lived and worked in the court of Phillip III.

Foundation of the Spanish Style

Through the essays, the reader sees how the naturalistic and dramatic style of paitning would slowly come to define Spanish court portraiture under Phillip III and would go on to lend to the new innovations that would come in the future after El Greco and Velazquez. The history is rich and deep in the Spanish mindset and lends to the reader a fascinating journey of the evolution of court portraiture under each new reign.

Imagery

Bass includes over 170 color plates that are so well-lit and reproduced that the exhibition catalog without the essays would serve as a great way to understand the art of the court of Phillip III with just the imagery alone.

Crucial Artistic Development

As editor Ronni Baer notes in the description of the catalog, Phillip III “actually presided over an era of crucial artistic development in Spain. His reign was a time of cultural and political vitality for the Spanish monarchy, as the king and his court, having successfully maintained a peaceful foreign policy in Europe (the “Pax Hispanica”), ushered in a style of grandeur where fabulous gala celebrations, building campaigns, picture collecting, recreation and travel were the order of the day.

Accordingly, the art of this period flourished, witnessing the birth of a naturalistic style that was variously reflected in a new attention to detail and spatiality in court portraiture, the thriving of still life, the humanizing of saints and the development of polychrome sculpture.” Such a description only teases the reader as to what will unfold while reading Bass’ catalog.

El Greco to Velazquez by Laura Bass is available for purchase through MFA Publications with ISBN 0878467262.

Picasso Looks at Degas – A Review

picassoArtists will often look at, admire and even borrow from other artists to create their own style and ideas. For Pablo Picasso, this was Edgar Degas. His admiration bordered on near-obsession and even went on to extend to Degas’ personality.

Picasso not only borrowed from the artist that he so admired, but he also took from and reworked some of Degas’ works, including the brothel mono-types that Picasso would acquire during the later years of his artistic career.

Comparing Degas and Picasso

It is evident, by looking at the body of work from both artists, that they both were obsessed with the female figure which they both portray in the form of dancers, singers and prostitutes. Degas tended to favor capturing the female form with the portrayal of ballet dancers and singers. Some of his more famous works include L’etoile and The Singer in Green. Comparatively, Pablo Picasso is more widely associated with works such as Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, a cubist portrayal of the ladies that composed a scene consisting of prostitutes. Some scholars have since made a connection between Picasso’s work and that of the court portraits of Spanish painter, Velazquez.

Degas and Picasso Exhibitions

This exhibition catalog is from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute located in Williamstown, MA which hosted the exhibition that depicted the influence of Edgar Degas on Pablo Picasso. The exhibition lasted from June 13, 2010 until September 12, 2010. It was a joint project between the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Museu Picasso, Barcelona. According to the Clark Institute website, it was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and with the special cooperation of Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte.

About the Author

According to amazon.com, “Elizabeth Cowling is Professor Emeritus of History of Art at Edinburgh University, and an independent scholar and exhibition curator. Richard Kendall is Consultative Curator of Nineteenth-Century Art at the Clark, as well as an independent scholar and exhibition curator. Cécile Godefroy is a researcher at the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte in Madrid. Sarah Lees is Associate Curator of European Art at the Clark. Montse Torras is Exhibitions Coordinator at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona.”

Picasso Looks at Degas by Elizabeth Cowlin, Mr. Richard Kendall, Montse Torras, Sarah Lees and Cecile Godefroy is available for purchase through the Clark Art Institute with ISBN 0300134126. It was originally published on July 13, 2010.

 

Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures

raidAmerica, specifically New York, was not seen as the center for the art world until the twentieth century. Before that, Europe, specifically Paris, was the center of the art world. Artists from all over the world traveled to the City of Lights to train and broaden their artistic scope. With the artists, came many art enthusiasts and patrons who would become famous in their own right, people such as Gertrude Stein.

Then, by the end of the nineteenth century, America began to overtake England as a world power. In doing so, America began to thirst for the next step up the ladder of power. It needed to show and deem itself an artistically rich nation that too had the likes of Vermeer, Rembrandt and Raphael adorning the galleries of its museum.

Capturing the Madness of Art

In Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures, Cynthia Saltzman takes her readers on an in-depth, striking look at the fever that swept across America in needing to bring both famous and well-known objets d’arts to America. As Henry James called it, and David Michaels references it, Saltzman captures “real people, men and women alike, frantic to lay hands on the power and beauty and immortality – the madness, of art.”

It is most interesting to see this madness, this rush for dominance and immortality as a world power through documents and passages that Cynthia Saltzman lays out for the reader in detail. It goes to show that it was not only Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany that hoarded and often more times then not acquired works underhandedly in the name of nationality and pride.

Overall, Saltzman’s book encourages readers to look beyond the image and to see the high-price that some of these old world masters came with as they made their journey to America. It is fascinating to see and learn how major museums and collectors collaborated together to in essence, loot Europe of some of its most prized and well-known works of art.

Cynthia Saltzman

According to her website, Saltzman holds degrees in both art history from Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. from Stanford. She has also worked as a reporter for Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Saltzman is also the author of Portrait of Dr. Gachet; The Story of a van Gogh Masterpiece. She lives in New York.

Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures by Cynthia Saltzman is available for purchase with ISBN 0670018317 from Viking Adult. It was first published on August 14, 2008.

Book Review: The Botticelli Secret

secretSteeped in the turmoil of the non-unified Italy of the 1400’s, Marina Fiorato skillfully weaves a detailed and evasive mystery around one of Botticelli’s more famous paintings, Primavera or Allegory of Spring. The painting is packed with meaning alone, but Fiorato takes the painting to an entirely new level in her book, The Botticelli Secret.

Primavera

Painted in 1482, the Primavera was created by Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. He was of the Florentine school and worked during the Early Renaissance or Qauttrocento. It is suggested that the allegory had been petitioned by the Medici family.

The work is largely accepted as an allegory of springtime, however, other themes and meanings have been explored, including the idea that the painting illustrates the ideal of Neoplatonic love. For Fiorato, the painting serves as the basis for her art history mystery in her novel.

The Plot

Fiorato opens her novel with the introduction of her heroine- common whore by the name of Luciana Vetra. She is described as a classical beauty, with long flowing ringlets and a sharp tongue from the four years that she spent on the streets of Florence. She is aptly named for how she arrived in Florence. Her origins for much of the novel are unknown, but from the beginning Luciana speaks of her uncommon arrival in the city- as a baby washedup on the shores of the city in a glass bottle.

The reader is quickly drawn to her, despite her abrasiveness and crassness that are abundant in the earlier part of the novel, but softens as she finds herself and finds love during the course of the story. Her flaws make Luciana realistic and easy to relate too, despite the over-the-top mystery and life that she eventually gets swept up in to.

Fiorato’s story of Luciana, Primavera and the mystery that engulfs everything is skillfully rendered and so lush that the reader easily gets immersed in the world of what Italy was like during the early part of the Renaissance. Fiorato leaves nothing to the imagination and stays away from romanticizing the period, leaving the reader with a raw and detailed depiction of what life was like during the time that Botticelli lived and worked.

The Botticell Secret by Marina Fiorato was originally published in April of 2010. It is available for purchase through St. Martin’s Griffin, New York with ISBN 978-0-312-60636-7.

Book Review: The Sidewalk Artist

sidewalkA blocked writer, unhappy with her life and relationship takes off for a Parisian vacation. It is there that Tulia Rose encounters beautiful chalk drawings of some of Raphael’s most beautiful and famous creations of cherubs and light. The chalk drawings’ artist Raffaello, intrigues Tulia. She quickly finds herself asking if she loves him? Or is he a stalker? Or could he even be the reincarnation of the Renaissance artist Raphael?

Dreamy Settings

Tulia’s story and eventual love-affair takes her across Europe to lush settings that are both dreamy and romantic. Readers are indulged in sensual Paris, dream-like Tuscany and beautiful Venice as Tulia navigates herself through her budding affair and eventual break-up with her New York boyfriend, Ethan.

The settings are beautifully described and detailed by an author with a keen eye for the intricacies that the romance of Europe offers its visitors. Buonaguro writes, “What truly moves Tulia is not the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame Cathedral or any of the wonderful sights. It is the little things. A windowsill with a pot of geraniums and a glimpse of lace curtain, the way the sun glances off a puddle, the echo of her heels as she walks down a narrow cobblestone street, the taste of coffee at an outdoor cafe, the sound of children calling out to each other in French,” making it easy for the reader to fall in love with Paris even if they haven’t had a chance to make it there yet.

The Failing Hero

The downfall of The Sidewalk Artist, in my opinion was Raffaello – Buonaguro’s hero. Instead of being the romantic artist that was meant to sweep readers off their feet as they read, I found Raffaello to be more creepy than to be someone with whom I would want to disappear into the European countryside with. I kept waiting for a plot twist wherein the entire story line became something sinister and it was with that thought that kept me from completely falling in love with the story though I did find the idea of the parallel plot and romance to be creative and intriguing.

The Sidewalk Artist makes for a quick read and is great if you’re looking for a sweet story to spend a day at the beach with.

The Sidewalk Artist by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk is available for purchase through St. Martin’s Griffin with ISBN 031237805X. It was released on April 1, 2008.