Ekphrasis: A Monthly Book Club about Art
Ekphrasis is a monthly book club devoted to the history of art. Each
month, we will feature a work of fiction or nonfiction that will cover periods
ranging from the Renaissance to the art of today. For this unique program, a
staff member will give a presentation to provide a visual context for the topic
September 11, 2013, 12 p.m.
"The Glassblower of Murano" by Marina Fiorato
Venice, 1681. Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold. Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon. But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to protect his secret daughter. In the present day his descendant, Leonora Manin, leaves an unhappy life in London to begin a new one as a glassblower in Venice. As she finds new life and love in her adoptive city, her fate becomes inextricably linked with that of her ancestor and the treacherous secrets of his life begin to come to light.
October 9, 2013, 12 p.m.
"Why Painting is Like a Pizza" by Nancy G. Heller (Guest Appearance)
The first time she made a pizza from scratch, art historian Nancy Heller made the observation that led her to write this entertaining guide to contemporary art. Comparing modern art not only to pizzas but also to traditional and children's art, Heller shows us how we can refine analytical tools we already possess to understand and enjoy even the most unfamiliar paintings and sculptures.
November 13, 2013, 12 p.m.
“Color: A Natural History of the Palette” by Victoria Finlay
Discover the tantalizing true stories behind your favorite colors.
For example: Cleopatra used saffron—a source of the color yellow—for seduction. Extracted from an Afghan mine, the blue “ultramarine” paint used by Michelangelo was so expensive he couldn’t afford to buy it himself. Since ancient times, carmine red—still found in lipsticks and Cherry Coke today—has come from the blood of insects.
January 8, 2014, 12 p.m.
"Life Studies: Stories" by Susan Vreeland (hardcover, paperback)
Life Studies begins with historic tales that, rather than focusing directly on the great Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masters themselves, render those on the periphery—their lovers, servants, and children—as their personal experiences play out against those of Manet, Monet, van Gogh, and others.
February 12, 2014, 12 p.m.
“Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s” by Hunter Drohojowska-Philip
Los Angeles, 1960: There was no modern art museum and there were few galleries, which is exactly what a number of daring young artists liked about it, among them Ed Ruscha, David Hockney, Robert Irwin, Bruce Nauman, Judy Chicago and John Baldessari. Freedom from an established way of seeing, making, and marketing art fueled their creativity, which in turn inspired the city.
March 12, 2014, 12 p.m.
"The Irish Game" by Matthew Stewart
In the annals of art theft, no case has matched—for sheer criminal panache—the heist at Ireland’s Russborough House in 1986. The Irish police knew right away that the mastermind was a Dublin gangster named Martin Cahill. Yet the great plunder —including a Gainsborough, a Goya, two Rubenses, and a Vermeer— remained at large for years.
April 9, 2014, 12 p.m.
“The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism” by Ross King
While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas and against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, would at times resemble a battlefield; and as Ross King reveals, it would reorder both history and culture, and resonate around the world.
May 7, 2014, 12 p.m.
"Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" by Therese Anne Fowler
When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame.