Author(s): Andrew Graham-Dixon
Five hundred years ago the legendary Renaissance genius, Michelangelo (1475-1564), put the first brushstroke to his most ambitious creation. As he started work on his vast fresco cycle for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in the autumn of 1508, he began putting into pictures the awe-inspiring legends recounted in the Book of Genesis. But for the viewer looking up into Michelangelo's painted sky, with its visions of an elemental universe, this was to be just the first of a series of unprecedentedly original images. These depictions of swooping, gesticulating, flying, muscular figures reach their climax in The Creation of Adam - a depiction of the very origins of Man that has been rightly celebrated, for centuries, as the quintessential masterpiece of the Renaissance. Yet the painting of the Sistine Chapel, for all its magnificence, came at a considerable human cost. It would take Michelangelo four years of long and bitter toil to complete his masterpiece, goaded all the while by his volatile, impatient patron, Julius II - known as the "Warrior Pope", in allusion both to his military conquests and aggressive temperament.
2008 is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of Michelangelo's religious art masterwork. Andrew Graham-Dixon was writer and presenter of BBC2's 'A History of British Art' and is a celebrated historian and arts presenter.
"unravels the aesthetic originality behind... familiar figures." OBSERVER "an engaging and accessible introduction... the way he sets out this historical context, establishing for his readers the ongoing economic, social and political events that did so much to shape the building of the city and therefore the creation of a masterpiece... a model of understated scholarship packed into a convenient size - physically as well as intellectually - with good colour photography and all at a very reasonable price: what more can the general reader hope for." SUNDAY TELEGRAPH "an excellent introduction to the Sistine Chapel... Time and again while reading this book I found myself looking with fresh eyes at a detail of the ceiling, prompted by an arresting phrase or astute observation... This is art history at its best: clear, exciting, well-informed." -- CRAIG BROWN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK MAIL ON SUNDAY "shows the best of what Graham-Dixon brings to his art criticism: an easy facility to convey the complex in lucid, simple terms." -- SERENA DAVIES DAILY TELEGRAPH "From first to last, it is crisply written in a prose which is both brisk and shapely... such a user guide to the brilliant particularities of the Sistine Chapel, aimed at the intelligent general reader, fills a gap in the market." RA MAGAZINE "Andrew Graham Dixon penetrates the many layers of meaning surrounding Michelangelo's rich images and allows us to glimpse something of the visions perceived by the artist himself. But more than this, he reveals Michelangelo the man - an achievement which ultimately proves even more rewarding." YORKSHIRE EVENING POST
Andrew Graham-Dixon is one of our leading art critics and presenters of arts television. He has presented six landmark series on art for the BBC, as well as numerous individual documentaries on art and artists. Since 2006, he has also been the face of the visual arts on BBC2's The Culture Show. For more than twenty years he has published a weekly column on art, first in the Independent and, more recently, in the Sunday Telegraph (including the popular weekly column 'In the Picture'). He has written a number of acclaimed books, on subjects ranging from medieval painting and sculpture to the art of the present. He has won numerous awards for writing and broadcasting, including the Arts Journalist of the Year Award three years in a row and the Hawthornden Prize for Art Criticism. He is married with three children and lives in London.