M : the man who became Caravaggio

by Peter Robb

Paper Book, 2001




New York : Picador USA, 2001


A bold, fresh biography of the world's first modern painter As presented with "blood and bone and sinew" (Times Literary Supplement) by Peter Robb, Caravaggio's wild and tempestuous life was a provocation to a culture in a state of siege. The of the sixteenth century was marked by the Inquisition and Counter-Reformation, a background of ideological cold war against which, despite all odds and at great cost to their creators, brilliant feats of art and science were achieved. No artist captured the dark, violent spirit of the time better than Caravaggio, variously known as Marisi, Moriggia, Merigi, and sometimes, simply M. As art critic Robert Hughes has said, "There was art before him and art after him, and they were not the same."Caravaggio threw out Renaissance dogma to paint with dazzling originality and fierce vitality, qualities that are echoed in Robb's prose. As with Caravaggio's art, M arrests and susps time to reveal what the author calls "the theater of the partly seen." Caravaggio's wild persona leaps through these pages like quicksilver; in Robb's skilled hands, he is an immensely attractive character with an astonishing connection to the glories and brutalities of life.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lascaux
Powerful book about a powerful but also fragile painter written in a powerful style. It's just been a major reading experience. Very different from a history of art book: the writer has qualities of a novelist, but clearly goes about his research in a most thorough manner.
I looked at each painting on the web and each became much more meaningful after having read about it in the book. A new way of looking at Caravaggio ( 'M') comes about. I now wish to see the canvases which are in South Italy, Sicily and Malta.
The organization of the book is interesting ( quotes, refs, list of pictures, paragraphs, sections, typography, elisions close to speech).
I'd also found an earlier read, Peter Robb's "Midnight in Sicily" of very high quality — recommended to me in Palermo by a Scottish professor who spoke perfect Italian.
… (more)
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
A fascinating story of Caravaggio's brutal life, and we get the feeling that this was a rather violent man. Lots of papal politics, duels. Brilliant recreations and passionate renderings of Caravaggio's paintings coupled with a biography of a man about whom little is really known. Robb makes the case that Caravaggio is the founder of modern art.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheIdleWoman
Deliciously gossipy biography in a vividly journalistic style. Robb has certain quirks and takes a defiantly back-to-basics approach. Unable to find the name that contemporaries universally used for Caravaggio, he refers to him as 'M' throughout; and he gives the paintings crisp, curt titles. Caravaggio swaggers through these pages: devil-may-care, quick for a fight and sexually omniverous. It's the kind of book people either love or hate. I happen to love it for the way it utterly disregards conventional artist biography; and it's impossible to find a book which better evokes the brutally violent world of backstreet 17th-century Rome.… (more)


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