Our garden is probably at its most colourful just now, I nearly said at its best, but the weather has been too wet to mow the lawn, so this detracts.and the lanes continue to change, a lot of ransom now mixed with primroses and bluebells…and weeds… fine as long as they are not in your garden!….…..talking of weeds, this is why Wordsworth’s favourite flower, about which he wrote three poems is, not the daffodil, but the lowly celandine…..
There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!
For some reason, gardening inspires reading. The two go together nicely. But even if I can only look through the window at our garden through April downpours it still somehow makes me want to read. A couple of books I have devoured recently are to do with Caravaggio. Andrew Graham Dixon’s ‘Caravaggio : A Life Sacred and Profane’ is terrific. We have always enjoyed him on television, particularly the splendid series ‘Italy Unpacked’ on BBC with Giorgio Locatelli where he finds the art and Giorgio the food (another two things that go seamlessly together), but I don’t recall reading any of his books. The amount of knowledge and research that has gone into Caravaggio is stupendous, and much of it original. But who would have thought that I would enjoy a book about a painter of high Counter-Reformatiom religious pieces. The point about Caravaggio however is that he totally altered the way of religious representation from formal classicism to a realism based very much on the underworld in which so much of his life was to pan out. He was really the first person to show biblical stories in a dark, modern setting. He used the prostitutes he knew as models, as well as people picked off the streets of Rome who had ingrained dirt in their skin and filthy nails and feet. But more than that he was a master of dark and light, his paintings being hugely dramatic. Two thirds of some are black, black, black. Caravaggio threw himself and his world into the paintings sometimes literally as he often figured in the background.
But as much about the way Caravaggio changed painting for ever, this book is about the world in which he lived, the world of pimps and prostitutes, of honour woundings and killings, of extreme wealth and poverty. We learn how the things Caravaggio did, including his infamous killing of a man with whom he had quarrelled, made his life take turns which were indeed on the one hand sacred, and on the other profane. It is an exciting story riven with gory detail which engages you to the last. marvellous. In conjunction with this biography I picked through ‘Caravaggio : The Complete Works’ one of the marvellous Taschen Art books published in Germany at insanely cheap prices. The complete works, and analysis, for £7.99, a-ma-zing!