RA Magazine Winter 2012
Issue Number: 117
Review and Comment: Books - Christmas crackers
This season boasts a bumper crop of beautiful art books to give to friends and family. RA Magazine selects six of the best
CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH
Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) is seen as the embodiment of German Romanticism in art. He famously said, ‘A picture must not be invented, it must be felt’, and his enigmatic landscapes created meditations on death, faith, and the spiritual force of nature. In this new monograph by Johannes Grave (£80, Prestel) some rather dry writing is offset by gorgeous images and a wealth of information, in particular on Friedrich’s friendship with Goethe and others in the Romantic movement. – SG
COMMISSIONING CONTEMPORARY ART
Anyone who has ever commissioned a work of art knows that it can be fraught with difficulty.
As Louisa Buck reminds us in her new book, Commissioning Contemporary Art (£18.95, Thames & Hudson), written with art lawyer Daniel McClean, Pope Julius II’s threat to have Michelangelo thrown from the Sistine Chapel scaffolding is an extreme example of the artist/commissioner relationship.
This book is uniquely valuable for artists and commissioners – and a fascinating read for the layperson too. – SW
CEZANNE – A LIFE
Picasso famously said, ‘Cézanne is the father of us all.’ Yet as recently as the 1960s, when the National Gallery acquired its great Bathers against considerable opposition, Cézanne was seen as controversial.
Alex Danchev’s illuminating new biography (£30, Profile Books) explores his life and his influence, including, weirdly, on Allen Ginsberg’s Beat Generation poem Howl. The late John Golding, Emeritus Professor at the RA, declared this ‘the best account of Cézanne’s astonishing career’. – SW
THE BOOK OF KELLS
The Book of Kells, named after the town in Armagh where it originated in 800CE, and illustrating the Four Gospels, is one of the great treasures of European art. This lavish edition by Bernard Meehan (£60, Thames & Hudson) explores the text, the decoration and the symbolism within this glorious medieval time machine. We are guided through full-page depictions of Christ and sumptuous openings to the Gospels, revealing the vertiginous energy of the patterns that makes this work such an icon of Celtic art. – NT
THE NAKED NUDE
The title of this book refers to the distinction between naked and nude made by the late Lord Clark in his 1953 book The Nude. Nude is art, naked is reality.
Since Courbet’s infamous Origin of the World of 1866, the two have become thoroughly confused, but Frances Borzello has produced a thoughtful, highly intelligent book, tracking the newly frank, newly naked nude (£28, Thames & Hudson). It is highly readable, and all the more compelling for its female but not necessarily feminist viewpoint. – SW
So big that it comes with its own carrying case, this über book celebrates the 150th anniversary of Klimt’s birth with a bang. Lavishly illustrated, Gustav Klimt The Complete Paintings, by Tobias G. Natter (£135, Taschen) includes sumptuous fold-out photographs showing the entire Stoclet frieze, his masterpiece in the Palais Stoclet in Brussels (closed to the public). An excellent essay by Christophe Grunenberg discusses Klimt’s transformation from academic to avant-garde artist as leader of the Vienna Secession. – SG
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