nonrequired reading: art and artists and one witch

Hello again! I have been reading a lot of books about art lately (okay, two of them), but as a person who works predominantly with art and who considers myself to be at least a little bit an artist I am always enthralled by books of this kind.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is about a girl who forges a painting in grad school because she’s broke (#relatable), grows up to become a famous curator, and then curates a show where – surprise – her forgery and the original show up. It is a little bit historical fiction, set respectively in the Golden Age of Dutch painting (late 1500s-early 1600s), the 1950s, and today, following painter, forger, and owner of the painting. There is a lot of rather technical detail about forging paintings which I personally found to be very interesting – types of brushstrokes, how to age a canvas, etc., etc., but it is also just a really beautiful study of people. The writing is incredible; there were certain parts that I had to just stop and stare at.

The Drowning Girl is a book about ghosts but also about art and it is, honestly, a piece of art in itself. I am about halfway through but I can already tell this is a book I will read and read and read. It has captured me so completely – it is almost impossible to describe, which I think is the point, but it resonates in my bones. It’s written so perfectly, so utterly truly – there is a part where she says that people fear vampires and werewolves and ghosts and whatnot because although they are not factual they are true. This book is true and I want you all to read it and come talk to me about it.

Now the witch! Of course there is a witch. Hex is a translation from its original Dutch (lots of Dutch today!) and the author reworked it a bit in the translating. It is a horror novel about a small town in upstate New York (I think? somewhere staid and unflappable, anyway) that has a witch. And they know they have a witch, and they’re resigned to having a witch, and when she inevitably shows up in someone’s living room to stand there for hours on end, they put a towel on her head so they don’t have to look at her face and keep watching TV. Obviously havoc ensues, eventually, but it’s a really interesting take on haunting as a concept and is pretty creepy at times, if I’m being honest.

Other books about art which I have loved: The Goldfinch,  The Swan Thieves, Tell the Wolves I’m Home. Anything that talks about the texture of light in a painting is something I am going to read. I am partial to landscapes and still lifes, Maria van Oosterwyck, Wyeth but not his weirder stuff. I would rather look at a Thomas Kinkade than a Rothko and I understand objectively why that is wrong but I am who I am. There is a painting by Didier Paquignon of a car on an overpass and the first time I saw it I cried because the light was so beautiful. There is a way that art gets talked about in fiction – painting, specifically – that makes me feel shivery and connected to humanity and these books have all got it.

Next time I will talk about Girls on Fire! I have finished it but I am still processing. It is amazing, I will tell you that much.

Aly

About Aly

aly was born in nashville but left before she could meet and befriend and ultimately wed taylor swift. now she lives in colorado, where she spends her time crying about bucky barnes, yelling about pop music and vampires, and writing young adult fiction.

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