on 17 November 2000
Whilst primarily an account of the life of the painter Caravaggio, the machinations and intrigues of Italian life at the turn of the 17th century are vividly brought to life in this book. Caravaggio himself emerges as a fascinating, troubled genius: supremely gifted as an artist but continually clashing with authority and his peers. The book is meticulously researched and full of gems of detail. Robb is unashamedly an apologist for the actions of Caravaggio, though at times his arguments are inconsistent or tenuous. What really detracted from the book however was his infuriating inconsistency in style, veering from overly informal writing and manic use of apostrophes to unnecessarily pretentious bluster. I remain unconvinced as to the rationale behind constantly referring to Caravaggio/Michelangelo Merisi as 'M' even to the point of replacing references to him, within contemporary sources, with that single letter. These niggles aside, the book is a fine evocation of the world in which Caravaggio lived and worked - the fights, the plots, the powerbrokers, his loves and his lasting legacy of paintings which surely place him not just as the greatest painter of his age but in the all-time pantheon of master artists.
on 6 August 2012
Peter Robb's "M" contains all you ever wanted to know about Caravaggio's short and un-conventional life. Robb disects the existing evidence in microscopic detail to reveal the formerly rather vague details of his subject's entire life, setting it in its complex historical perspective. Robb gives not only gives an anacademic analysis of the painings but also he provides background information on the models, commisioners and motivations behind these works of art. I found that this really brought the paintings to life for me.
While I found some of Robb's rather colloquial style a little irritating, he did in the end provide a rational explanation of the artist's death which has been shrouded in mystery for centuries.
Set aside some considerable time to solve the untimely demise of this unique and ground-breaking artist.
on 19 March 2006
I picked up this book after reading Desmond Seward's 'Caravaggio: A Passionate Life'. As I stated in my review of that book I had no prior knowledge of this artist and it was the beautiful colour plates that initially attracted me to the book. Peter Robb's account of the life of Caravaggio is a much larger book, over 560 pages with numerous B&W and exquisite colour plates. The story covers all aspects of Michelangelo Merisi's (M) life and the author attempts to answer the questions about this artist's dark life. Peter Robb provided an insight into the politics, art and people of the period which I found very interesting and put much of M's life in perspective. I found that the story flowed along faultlessly and it was a joy to read and to learn about the paintings produced by M during his life. I did find one aspect of the book a little annoying. The author made mention or reference to a number of Caravaggio's paintings but did not provide any plates to illustrate these pictures. In the end I bought a small D&K art book which I used to cross-reference all of the artist pictures when mentioned in the narrative. Other than that I have no complaints of this beautifully presented book and I am sure that anybody who wants to learn more about this extraordinary man will certainly enjoy this book.
"There was art before him and art after him, and they were not the same." - Robert Hughes