Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Artists Their Lives and Works


From DK books we have a large,heavy coffee table book lavishly and exquisitely illustrated. It includes a foreword by Andrew Graham-Dixon. From Giotto and Botticelli to Bacon, Pollock and Murakamiit is a celebration of more than 80 great artists, from the Early Renaissance to the present day. It concentrates specifically on painting and sculpture and is clearly presented and painstakingly researched .The book is divided chronologically into seven sections from before the 15th century through to modern times.
The stories behind the world’s most famous masterpieces and their creators are told, with the book examining the artist’s influences, development, assorted influences, friendships, loves, and sometimes bitter rivalries. We learn of the often stormy lives of iconic artists including Kahlo, Kiefer, Hogarth, Magritte, O’Keeffe, Raphael ,van Gogh and Warhol .Caravaggio’s riotous reactions to a badly-cooked artichoke are mentioned as well as following his rather sinister and dangerous life .Also mentioned are for example Holbein’s matchmaking portraits for Henry VIII ( which led to his unhappy marriage with Anne of Cleves) and the many romantic affairs of Picasso.
There is a comprehensive ‘general’ index and a separate index of the artworks featured . The entry for each artist is peppered with bountiful illustrations of their works. Most of the major artists are allocated two to four pages some like Leonardo , Michaelangelo and Rembrandt are allowed six. A timeline of key moments is included in most entries and usually quotes by and about the artist and their work. Sidebars place the artist’s life in context ( eg for Picasso the box is entitled ‘ war and peace’) and their favourite styles and subjects are discussed. Often a separate box entitled ‘technique’ included ( eg when discussing Raphael , tapestry cartoons, or Gaugin’s sculptures ). A ‘directory’ section at the end of each of the seven divisions briefly lists other important artists and their works of the same era.
It is interesting to note that only ONE Australian is included – Sir Sidney Nolan with no mention of Brett Whitely, Russell Drysdale , Geoffrey Smart , Arthur Streeton , Tom Roberts , Ian Fairweatheror John Olsen to name jut a few . ( It is fascinating to see who is and isn’t included throughout the book ).
A minority of women are included ( Frida Kahlo , who is featured on the cover of the book , Elisabeth Vigee- Lebrun, Artemesia Gentileschi ) but they are mostly briefly mentioned in the Directory at the end of the appropriate section , which is where we find Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot , Kathe Kolwitz,,Judy Chicago and Maria Abramovic ,Mona Hatoum and Louise Bourgeois . ( No mention of Judy Cassab, Camille Claudel , Barbara Hepworth, Hilda Rix Nicholas , Margaret Preston, Tracy Moffatt , Grace Cossington Smith or Joan Brassil for example).
A fascinating read for art lovers , a very handy quick reference book for libraries and art teachers and a terrific book to present as a gift.
Bibliographic information
 Artists: Their Lives and Works
Contributor Ross King
Publisher DK Publishing, 2017

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