“The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.”
— Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), The Hero as a Man of Letters
Art Books: refreshing our spirit & seeing the world afresh...
Wang Kai, Mai-mai Sze, Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting Wang Kai, The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (1978), Mai-mai Sze (editor & translator), Princeton Univ Press, ISBN: 0691018197— This Chinese classic Chieh Tzu Yuan Hua Chuan by Wang Kai was first published in 1679. The title was taken from the name of the home in Nanking of its publisher, Shen Hsin-yu. This book first appeared in 1956 as Volume 2 of Sze's Tao of Painting. It is a facsimile of the 1887 Shanghai edition printed by lithography with hundreds of examples showing strokes using the soft Chinese brush. The poet Kenneth Rexroth wrote of Sze's book in the Nation:“Every American artist and art critic should buy and study this book. Nothing could be a better answer to the problems and dilemmas of modern abstract expressionism. Nothing could be a better antidote to the enervating poisons which have debilitated modern painting.“ The Manual demonstrates the technique as well as the spirit of Chinese art. After discussing painting fundamentals & essentials and faults & things to avoid, the book provides drawings of trees, rocks, people & things, orchid, bamboo, plum, chrysanthemum, grass, feathers-and-fur, insects, & flowering plants. Art lovers will treasure this book. Avg. Review (2): 4 stars
Joseph Cornell, Utopia Parkway Deborah Solomon, Utopia Parkway : The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell (1998), Noonday Press, ISBN: 0374525714 — Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) was a major American artist, so much so that New York's Guggenheim Museum held a retrospective of his work: odd shadowboxes filled with dime store trinkets, photos cut from movie magazines, and other assorted objects. Yet this man who was revered by the avant-garde lived an eccentrically quiet and unfashionable life in Queens on incongruously named Utopia Parkway. Deborah Solomon, the art critic for The Wall St. Journal, has diligently reconstructed Cornell's life in this abundant biography. Cornell was a highly unusual artist who lived an outwardly ordinary life. The connections between the layers of his life and his fascinating art give his story great resonance. The first time I saw a Cornell shadow box in a museum, my mind reeled back to childhood dreams and fantasy. You'll ride a magic carpet in reading this book. Avg. Review (3): 5 stars
Kandinsky, Spiritual in Art Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1977), Dover, ISBN: 0486234118— “Color is a power which directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.” wrote Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) in his Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1914). This book is a reprint of that classic work on color and form as spiritual symbols. A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. Written by the famous non-objective painter Kandinsky, it explains his own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the period. Along with his own ground-breaking paintings, this book had a tremendous impact on the development of modern art. This classic continues to be a stimulating reading experience for every art lover concerned with the direction of 20th century painting. Avg. Review (1): 5 stars
Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy's Story of Painting Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy's Story of Painting (1994), Stewart Tabori & Chang, ISBN: 1556708572— Sister Wendy's Story of Painting in 450 full color masterpieces chronicles the developments and movements in painting over the past 800 years from Gothic to Renaissance, Romanticism to Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism to Modernism. Each movement is introduced by visual timelines that provide an instant overview of the important artists and paintings of that era. As she discusses various schools and movements as well as the work of dozens of individuals artists, Sister Wendy not only tackles the technical topics of perspective, color, and symbolism, she delves into the spiritual, political, and personal aspects of each painting, making art come alive for even the most novice admirer. Sister Wendy analyzes more than 30 of the world's most famous paintings, using enlarged details to explain techniques and reveal symbolism in works that include Botticelli's Birth of Venus, Rembrandt's Jewish Bride, Monet's Waterlily Pond, and Van Gogh's Self-Portrait. Sister Wendy's Story of Painting is an accessible overview of a subject often thought to be overwhelming and complex. Avg. Review (4): 5 stars
Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy's Odyssey: A Journey of Artistic Discovery Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy's Odyssey: A Journey of Artistic Discovery (Reprint Edition 1998), Stewart Tabori & Chang, ISBN: 1556708572— Casting her expert eye over art from six centuries, from the society portraits of Van Dyck to David Hockney's nudes, Sister Wendy sheds modern light on classic works, while illuminating the historical influences that have shaped art today. There are 35 full-color photographs and brief lives of the artists. The nun's artistic journey covers 55 paintings from British museums in Liverpool, Cambridge, Oxford, Wilton House near Salisbury, Birmingham, and Edinburgh. While her focus is on Western Art from the viewpoint of a contemplative, I missed her insights on the great art from Islam and the Orient. Perhaps Sister Wendy will address this oversight in her future art odyssey volumes. Avg. Review (2): 5 stars
Delacroix's Journal Michele Hannoosh (ed.), Painting and the Journal of Eugene Delacroix (1995), Princeton Univ Press, ISBN: 0691043949— “We work not only to produce but to give value to time” is one of the many gems you'll find in Delacroix's Journal. This is one of the most important works in the literature of art history, and also one of the richest and most fascinating aesthetic documents of the 19th century. Delacroix reflects on the relations between the arts, especially painting & writing. He approaches the question from a unique perspective, that of a painter who wrote extensively and theorized his own writing in the Journal, a painter who had a passion for literature and a powerful literary imagination, a narrative painter whose work is rooted in literature. This book is the first to explore the crucial importance of this relation for Delacroix's aesthetic theory and artistic practice. Countering previous critiques which saw his writing as the inverse of his painting, it argues that, through his diary and art criticism, he sought to develop a painter's writing, proper to painting itself, and that such a writing is closely related to his conception of pictorial art. Delacroix's ideas on the theoretical and practical relations between writing and painting, narrative and the image, are shown to be central not only to his aesthetic, but also to his views on civilization, history, and culture, and on the role of the artist in the modern world.
Delacroix's Journal Edward Lucie-Smith, Lives of the Great 20th-Century Artists (1999), Thames & Hudson, ISBN: 0500237395— In our era, artists have become stars. We're always fascinated to learn something new about the 20th century's greatest artists. In this beautiful book (273 illustrations, 101 in full color), Edward Lucie-Smith relates some of the strangest, saddest, most glorious, and most intriguing life stories of our time. One hundred artists who have shaped our perceptions in this century are presented in lively short biographies. All the entries are illustrated with important works, self-portraits, and photographs, and the book includes an excellent guide for further reading. Clearly grouped according to 24 styles are modern art's pioneers from Picasso and Duchamp to Louise Bourgeois and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Lucie-Smith vividly evokes the lives of these great personalities and guides the reader through the maze of different styles and movements with authority and verve. Informative and entertaining, illuminated with anecdotes and balanced historical judgment, this is a wonderful collection for everyone interested in the art and artists of the 20th century. My favorite photos in this book are Piet Mondrian meditating (posing as a classical Indian dancer), Umberto Boccioni and Filippo Marinetti at the Futurist Salon in Paris (looking like Al Capone gangsters), Sonia Delaunay in her residence motioning to a cat amidst potted giant jungle plants, and Henri Cartier-Bresson's Georges Rouault (looking frail but debonair, clearly the best dressed artist in this book). Avg. Review (1): 5 stars

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