Ross King - Great Books for Readers and Artists Alike

I have an art background and love to read, so when an author appeals to both sides of me, I tend to read everything they’ve written. Ross King is one such author. Whether or not you're interested in artists and art history, if you enjoy nonfiction that reads like an engaging novel, you should try the work of Ross King.

He has written books about some of my favorite artists. Here are the ones I have read so far:

Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling - This was the first Ross King book I read, and even though I had studied Michelangelo in art school, I learned something I didn’t know (spoiler alert!) – he did NOT lie on his back to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling! (Blame the movie “The Agony and the Ecstasy” for that myth.) A wealth of information, delivered in an engaging and entertaining style.

The Judgment of Paris: the Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism - This cleverly titled book refers to the city of Paris’ judgmental attitude toward the Impressionists and how difficult it was for this group of avant-garde artists to break through the public’s (and art establishment’s) entrenched ideas about what art was and should be. It contains a wealth of very interesting information about the individual artists who made up the group that came to be known as the Impressionists (a term which was originally coined by a critic to mock them, based on a Monet landscape titled, “Impression, Sunrise.”) King begins this book with Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier, who at the time was the most popular and commercially successful artist in France and who nobody remembers today.

Brunelleschi's Dome : How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture - Even if you’re not a fan of architecture or the Renaissance, you’ll be fascinated by this story of the genius who designed and built what is still the largest dome in the world. King takes what could be a dry subject and injects it with color and life.

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies - I have not finished reading this one, and I’ve already decided to buy it and add it to my home art library. Monet is one of my personal favorites, but even though I have studied him extensively and have copied several of his paintings in the National Gallery, this book revealed things I didn’t know about him, including how he actually diverted a river to build his famous lily pond.

Even if you are not an artist, reading any of these books will entertain, enlighten and educate you. Happy reading!

-Amy Mann, Centreville Regional Library

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