Now for a visual treat: a post on some of my favourite books about both art and artists, many of which we have bought after attending a wonderful exhibition!
Art is such a personal concept and performs many different purposes from representing our world to exploring personal ideas or beliefs. Being a romantic at heart and a bit of an ostrich, I tend to be drawn to works of beauty, as I feel our world has enough ugliness in reality, without perpetuating it in our art! A typical example is one of my most favourite paintings: End of Dinner by Jules-Alexandre Grun 1913 https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-end-of-dinner-jules-alexandre-grun.html.
I will start with two general books on art, then introduce you to some books featuring of my favourite artists and art periods in chronological order. Note: This selection is based solely on my art library and is a very incomplete representation of my favourite art and artists! For example, I love Impressionism, but do not own any books on it or its proponents in my art library, so they are not included in this post. Because this is quite a long post, I have divided it into two parts: Part One: General Art Books and Pre-1900s; and Part Two: Post 1900s.
In my last book post on Architectural Books, I discussed one book, which covered both the architecture and art of Islam, so I thought I would begin with:
The Orient in Western Art by Gérard-Georges Lemaire 2000
For over 2 000 years, the Western imagination has been excited by the world of the Orient from Egypt to Palestine and Greece to Turkey with its exoticism and mystery, its domes and minarets and harems of beautiful women, as depicted in the art of :
Bellini, Carpaccio, Veronese, Tintoretto, Rubens and Rembrandt (15th to 17th Centuries);
The beautiful women of Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Jean-Étienne Liotard and Antoine de Favray and landscapes of Jean-Baptiste Hilair in the 18th Century;
The battle scenes of Jean-Léon Gérôme, François Watteau, Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, Anne-Louise Girodet de Roussy-Trioson and Alexandre Bida; and
Egyptian scenes, painted by David Roberts, Frederick Goodall, William James Müller, Adrian Dauzats, Prosper Marilhat and Rudolf Ernst of the 18th Century.
I particularly loved Private Conversation by John Frederick Lewis (p 134; photo above); Odalisque by Natale Schiavoni (p 150; first photo below), Jewish Girl in Tangiers by Charles Landelle (p 169; fourth photo below) and Algerian Woman and Her Slave by Ange Tissier on the book cover (first photo of this post). Constantinople featured in The Slave Market by Sir William Allen 1838 and View of Constantinople by Germain-Fabius Brest 1870. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was entranced by the women of the harem, with some beautiful sensuous nudes like Odalisque (p 202, photo above); Little Bather; Grand Odalisque and Turkish Bath (see: http://www.jeanaugustedominiqueingres.org/), as was Théodore Chassériau – I love his Dance of the Kerchiefs 1849 (p 226). Jean-Léon Gérôme painted some lovely river scenes, while Gustave Moreau was fascinated with classical mythology and especially, Salome. Auguste Renoir’s Odalisque 1870 and Seated Algerian 1881 are also favourites.While the book also features the work of more modern artists, to my mind, none match the beauty and romance of the earlier period. It is a lovely dreamy book and does credit to these beautiful artworks!
Now for something totally different, yet still close to our heart:
A Brush With Birds: Australian Bird Art From the National Library of Australia Introduction by Penny Olsen 2008
Being keen bird-lovers, we had to buy this book! With full-page colour reproductions of bird art and brief notes on each artist’s life, it showcases bird art from 1788 to the present and a wide variety of styles from the rather stilted representations of the early colonial artists in an attempt to record these strange new birds for scientific purposes (John Hunter, George Raper and Sarah Stone) and the more realistic etchings of John Lewin and the Goulds (John and Elizabeth) to the bird identification guides by the Neville Cayleys (father and son), Ebenezer Edward Gostelow (front cover of the book), Lilian Medland and Betty Temple Watts and the hyper-realistic bird portraits by William Thomas Cooper, a particular favourite. I love his attention to fine detail like the feathers and his stunning use of colour, seen in the photo below, from page 101 of the book.
Lars Knudsen’s Australian Birds by Lars Knudsen 1995
Another bird artist, who loves colour, but was not in the above book, is Lars Knudsen. Born in 1931, so this book is definitely not in chronological order (!), Lars grew up in North Queensland, where he fell in love with the amazing bird life. He spent many years working in advertising in Sydney, before setting up a studio in Spain in 1977 and painting birds full-time. Since returning to Australia in 1985, he has produced numerous limited edition prints and now has a studio and gallery at Hampton in the Blue Mountains. In fact, I bought this lovely little book, showcasing 29 of his best Australian bird paintings, along with detailed comments about each bird, at Everglades, Leura in the Blue Mountains. They are stunning paintings, full of movement and colour and really capture the essence of each bird. I particularly loved the Orange-Bellied Parrots (p 30); the Whiskered Terns (p 38); both photographed above, and the Regent Bowerbird (p 53); and the Australian King Parrots (p 56), both photographed below.
I love his slightly abstract style, the colours of the backgrounds complementing the birds so well and his love and passion for birds and their environment really shines through. A delightful little book!A Vision of Eden: The Life and Work of Marianne North by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1980
Marianne North (1830-1890) is a great favourite of ours! An intrepid traveller, contemporary of Charles Darwin and Sir Joseph Hooker and highly talented artist, she produced over 800 oil paintings, now housed in the Marianne North Gallery at Kew (https://www.kew.org/mng/marianne-north.html). Her paintings show such accuracy and attention to detail and introduced the pre-photography public of the day to the huge diversity of life and natural wonders of the world.
I love her botanical studies (Page 26 North American Carnivorous Plants in the photo above; and Page 68 Flowers of a Coral Tree, Brazil, in the photo below,
as well as her exotic landscapes like the Taj Mahal at Agra (above) and the Road Up To Naini Tal, India (below) from page 126 :and her painting of Distant View of Mount Kinchinjunga, from Darjeeling, India (p 132):This book follows her life from her early days and home life to her travels in Canada and the United States; Jamaica; Brazil; Japan; Indonesia; India and Ceylon; Australia and New Zealand; South Africa and Chile in South America. I love the simplicity of this painting: A Road Near Bath, Jamaica, Lined With Palms, Bread-Fruit and Cocoa, from page 46:
As an Australian, it is fascinating to read her travel diary notes and descriptions of the native flora and fauna, though she could be quite ascerbic:
Brisbane in 1880 is described as: ‘a most unattractive place- a sort of overgrown village, with wide empty streets full of driving dust and sand, surrounded by wretched suburbs of wooden houses scattered over bare steep hills’ (p 158)
and Tenterfield as: ‘what Australians call “a very pretty place”, meaning that there was not a tree within a mile of it, and that it had a little water within reach’ (p 161).
As she travelled south, her mood improved! Armadale (her spelling, but really spelt Armidale) was ‘a considerable place, with some stone houses in it and a bishop’ (p162), where hotel rooms cost 10 shillings a day and meat, a shilling for 10 pounds.
Bendemeer was ‘a pretty green meadow with a clear river running through it, bordered by casuarina trees’ (p 162), though the accommodation was flea-ridden and noisy!
She was very comfortable in Sydney, staying at the Prime Minister’s house in the Blue Mountains; Elizabeth Bay; and Camden, so by the time she reached Melbourne, she was positively rapturous, declaring the city to be: ‘a noble city, and its gardens are even more beautiful than those of Sydney, with greater variety of ground, and lovely views over the river. It is by far the most real city in Australia, and the streets are as full of quickly-moving people as those of London’ (p 168). She even visited Perth and Albany in Western Australia and Hobart in Tasmania, where she raved over Mt. Wellington, as seen in her painting: View in the Forest on Mt. Wellington; p 181; photo above). I had to laugh at her assertion that: ‘Cherries, raspberries, every kind of fruit which grows at home grew better than at home. Half the jam in the world is made in Tasmania.‘ (p 178).
The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites by Steven Adams 1988
While well-connected Marianne was very much part of the establishment, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were much more controversial, rejecting the conservatism of the Royal Academy and aspiring to the era before Raphael, hence their name.
This book examines the academic tradition, against which they rebelled; the inception of the group in 1848 and the famous works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, William Holman Hunt and Ford Maddox Brown. They certainly produced some beautiful art, especially Millais’ family scenes (Autumn Leaves 1855-1856), as well as his famous Ophelia 1851 and Rossetti’s classically inspired ‘Stunners’ with their heart-shaped faces, full lips, hooded eyes, unrestrained flowing hair and extravagant robes, like Proserpine 1874 and The Beloved 1865 (book cover). See: http://preraphaelitesisterhood.com/rossettis-models/ .
The Pre-Raphaelites also led very unconventional (and messy!) lives, recounted superbly in Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites by Franny Moyle 2009, as well as the accompanying BBC TV production.
It is a fascinating read! I think William Morris was very forbearing, as well as being a fascinating character and a real Renaissance man, gifted with so many talents! I adore his work and ethos, so it is not surprising that I own two books about his life and work!
William Morris & Morris & Co. by Lucia Van der Post 2003
Father of the Arts and Crafts Movement and one of Britain’s greatest and best-known designers, whose wallpapers and textiles are still enormously popular, William Morris was born into a wealthy family in 1834 and studied art and literature at Oxford University, where he developed his passion for medievalism and the Gothic and met his lifelong friend, Edward Burne-Jones, through whom he came into contact with the Pre-Raphaelites .
He hated the mass production , pastiche, excessiveness and ugliness of Victorian industrial society, espousing a return to the medieval guilds, simplicity and true craftmanship, as seen in the ceramic tiles, metalwork, woodwork, furniture, glass, textiles, embroideries, carpets and wallpapers, produced by his firm Morris & Co.
I have always loved his famous quote:
‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’.
I also love his intensely personal involvement with all these crafts and the way he taught himself the necessary skills, whether it was stained glass; clay modelling; illuminating manuscripts; calligraphy; book production; carving wood and stone; wood engraving; mural and tile painting; natural dyeing or tapestry weaving and hand embroidery.
This lovely small book examines the key components of his work under the chapter titles of: Craft; Colour; Honesty; Pattern; Nature; and Legend, with colour photographs of his beautiful work and patterns throughout. By incorporating Morris designs in a wide variety of settings and modern contexts, the book also provides inspiration for contemporary homeowners.
And if you still haven’t had your fill of his designs, another excellent book about his life and work is:
The Art of William Morris by Christine Poulson 2004, in which the chapters are more chronologically-ordered, following his early life and university study, his establishment of the Firm, his involvement with the Pre-Raphaelites; his marriage and family life; his homes; his political beliefs, public speaking and writings, published through his Kelmscott Press.
The Arts & Crafts Companion by Pamela Todd 2008/ 2011
The ultimate guide to the Arts and Crafts Movement (1880 – 1920), it begins with its philosophy and background; its proponents including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Walter Crane, CFA Voysey, William Lethaby, Ernest Gimson, the Barnsley brothers, Philip Webb, MH Baillie Scott and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and that is only a small portion of the British Arts and Crafts movement. It was also occurring simultaneously in the rest of Europe and the United States of America.
The main section of the book is devoted to lengthy and detailed chapters about all aspects of the Arts and Crafts Movement: Architecture, Interior Design, Furniture, Textiles and Wallpaper, Stained Glass and Lighting, Pottery and Ceramics, Metalwork and Jewellery; the Printed Word and Gardens, the latter being the subject of my main assessment during my garden history studies.
I loved reading about these gardens, especially those created by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens (Munstead Wood; Hestercombe; and the Deanery); I would love to visit them one day, as well as Red House, Kent (Philip Webb and William Morris) and Kelmscott Manor (William Morris) in the Cotswolds; Standen, West Sussex (Philip Webb), Snowshill Manor (Baillie Scott), Rodmarton Manor (ErnestBarnsley), both in Gloucestershire and Blackwell, overlooking Windermere in the Lake District (MH Baillie Scott). The famous gardens of Hidcote Manor, Sissinghurst and Great Dixter have also been heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. See: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/our-arts-and-crafts-houses-and-gardens.
I also love the simplicity, subtlety and harmony of the wallpapers, textiles and furniture designed by CFA Voysey, who described his ideal interior as:
‘a well-proportioned room, with white-washed walls, plain carpet and simple oak furniture’ with a simple vase of flowers and repeated decorative motifs and symbols like stylized hearts‘.
His houses had low roofs, wide eaves, low horizontal windows, white roughcast walls and exposed beams and brickwork.
It was also very interesting to read about the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement on embroidery (including the Glasgow School of Art); Morris’s mastery of indigo discharge printing and natural dyeing; early electric lamps from the 1880s on; and stunning jewellery, inset with moonstones, amethyst and mother-of-pearl, as well as pearls, opals, coral, turquoise, malachite and lapis lazuli.
At the back of the book is a Source Book with key addresses and websites for the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as well as an extensive bibliography.
Now for books about four more artists, born during the 1860s, who were developing their artistic styles over this first half of this period: Alphonse Mucha ( 1860-1939) from Czechoslovakia; Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) from Vienna, Austria and two Australian artists, Bertram Mackennal (1863-1931) and Rupert Bunny (1864-1947), both of whom achieved their fame in Europe. All of them produced stunningly beautiful art, reflected in the colour-plates of these gorgeous books.
Alphonse Mucha by Sarah Mucha 2005
Alphonse Mucha was most famous for his Art Nouveau posters (advertising and art posters) with their sinuous lines, pastel colours, beautiful women and decorative motifs, but like other artists of the day, he was also interested in a wide variety of other artistic endeavours from pastels, drawings and oils; sculpture; photography; stained glass; architecture and interior design; furniture; tableware and cutlery; jewellery; tapestry and books. The book cover shown below features his colour lithograph Dance 1898.
This lovely book explores his life, influences and beliefs, the history of the time and the birth of Art Nouveau, and includes his wonderful photographs of his models and family. We were introduced to Mucha, when we bought one of his prints, Music 1898, on our second trip overseas and were delighted to see all his other beautiful designs in this book. I can honestly say that I love them all! Compare the colour of our print with the same design, shown in the photo below (p 25), showing the way his designs could be reproduced in a large number of different formats.
His women are so sensual, romantic and feminine, and I adore his backgrounds with abstract and naturalistic patterns and strong flowing lines, as seen in Reverie 1897 (p 38).Mucha used floral and botanic details, as well as Byzantine, Celtic, Japanese, Rococo, Gothic, Judaic and Czech folk elements in his work, as can be seen in his mosaic backgrounds, extravagant robes and jewellery and arabesques, all embellished with strong stylised outlines. I love the photo below his lamp titled La Nature 1899 (page 14). He used his designs in decorative panels and murals; posters; paintings; jewellery and haircombs; Moet and Chandon labels and menus; packages and postcards; and in 1902, produced a handbook for craftsmen, Documents Décoratifs , containing 72 plates, drawn in pencil and highlighted with white pigment, of all the necessary patterns for creating an Art Nouveau lifestyle, as well as being an encyclopaedia of all his decorative work. They include a realistic study of nature, the designs becoming increasingly stylised for metal, leather, glass and lace work; studies of nudes and women’s heads, showing how the human body has decorative elements; and abstract ornamental framing with repetition of stylised motifs. Below is a photo of two designs for hair combs and jewellery for Documents Décoratifs in Plates 49 and 50 (page 73).Mucha had a strong philosophical background to his work. Believing that art influenced all aspects of human life and was instrumental in uplifting the soul and promoting peace, harmony, beauty and a sense of moral goodness, he also was a strong proponent in art for the masses, creating strong stylized and often heavily symbolic designs (both explicit and hidden), which could be used repetitively to beautify goods of common consumption and utility, which could be afforded by the ordinary man. Here is Zodiac 1896 (p 28).His idealism is epitomised by his later Slav Epic, 20 huge canvases, representing the last 1000 years of Slavic history, in which he celebrates the Slavic virtues of peacefulness; piety and devotion to learning and the arts; chronicles the oppression of the Slavs by their militaristic neighbours and laments the weakness, born of Slav disunity. The photo below is: The Apotheosis of the Slavs 1926 from page 18.With his wonderful ideals and sensitivity, it is little wonder that he died not long after interrogation by the Nazis in 1939 and his work was then largely forgotten in his homeland until the 1990s.
The Mucha Foundation was established in 1992 by his grandson John Mucha and daughter-in-law Geraldine Mucha, following the death of their father/ husband and Mucha’s son Jifi. Its aim is to preserve and promote Mucha’s art for future generations and to this end, has an ongoing program of exhibitions all over the world. See: http://www.muchafoundation.org/. His work can also be seen at the Mucha Museum, which was opened in Prague in February 1998. See: http://www.mucha.cz/.
Gustav Klimt: Art Nouveau Visionary by Eva di Stefano 2008
Klimt is another favourite Art Nouveau portraitist and landscape painter. I have always loved his sumptuous gilded artworks, full of eroticism, symbolism and mystery, and his beautiful nudes, abstract colourful geometric patterns and gold leaf spirals. The book cover features his painting called Water Serpents I 1904. Like Mucha, he too had a thorough grounding in mosaics, metalwork, and painting, even preparing his own paints, as well as the symbolism and decorative motifs of many different eras and cultures from Greek ceramics and Egyptian and Assyrian reliefs to Slavic folklore. While specialising in painting, he also designed fashion and jewellery. This is one of his very famous paintings, The Kiss 1907-1908 from page 199:This lovely book discusses his early life and Fin-de-siècle Vienna; his artistic creed; his landscapes and allegorical friezes; the women in his life, his scandalous paintings and his secession years, having been a founding member of the Vienna Secessionist movement. Another very famous erotic painting is The Virgin 1912-1913 from page 227 of the book:For more about Klimt, see: https://www.klimtgallery.org/ and http://www.klimt.com/. Also read ‘The Painted Kiss’ by Elizabeth Hickey (http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Painted-Kiss/Elizabeth-Hickey/9780743492614) and the film, Woman in Gold (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2404425/).
Bertram Mackennal : The Fifth Balnaves Foundation Sculpture Project by Deborah Edwards 2007
One of the earliest Australian- born artists to seek fame and achieve success on the international stage, especially France and Britain. He was the first Australian artist to exhibit at the Royal Academy, London; the first overseas artist (and first Australian) to be elected to the Royal Academy; and the first Australian artist to have work purchased for the Tate Gallery and to be knighted. The book cover features a closeup of an exquisite bronze Circe 1893, the statuette from 1902-1904 appearing on page 31.Travelling to Europe in 1882, aged 19 years old, he was heavily influenced by Art Nouveau and the avant-garde aspirations of the British ‘New Sculptors’, creating beautiful naturalistic figures in bronze and marble, based on symbolist themes. By the early 1900s, he had become a prominent civic sculptor and a master of Edwardian style and elegance. I love this bronze Morning (Woman Dressing Her Hair) 1902 from p 110:Despite being highly successful overseas, he is less well-known here in Australia, so this book was produced, along with an accompanying CD-ROM, to educate the Australian public about his life, showcase his smaller domestic sculptures and complement a retrospective exhibition, held in Sydney and his home-town of Melbourne, where we were introduced to his work. I fell in love with his work- so beautiful and so tactile, the full-page colour-plates of this gorgeous coffee-table book really do justice to his amazing sculptures! Here is a delightful small marble statue, Sappho 1909 from page 70.Rupert Bunny: Artist in Paris by Deborah Edwards 2009
While Mackennal was the most internationally successful Australian artist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Rupert Bunny was Australia’s most successful painter in Paris, both men finally eclipsed by Sidney Nolan in the 1950s and 1960s. Arriving in Paris in 1887, just as PostImpressionism and Symbolism were emerging, he was heavily influenced by these movements, as well as the art of the Pre-Raphaelites and French Realism. The book cover features his dreamy oil painting titled Dolce Farniente 1897, seen in full in the photo below from page 60.
This beautiful book, also produced to accompany a wonderful exhibition at the National Gallery Of Victoria, describes his life in France; his successes and his sumptuous paintings from biblical and literary paintings (1889-1905), for example: his beautiful oil painting A Summer Morning 1897, the photo taken from page 63 of the book; the beautiful women and fashions of the fin-de-siècle (1896-1911); the works for the Ballet Russes; and his later landscapes and mythological paintings in the decorative modern style (1913-1930). I loved his oil The Sun Bath 1913 (page 105):It was wonderful seeing the large artworks closeup and this book is a lovely reminder of his beautiful romantic and sensuous paintings.
On Thursday, I will continue this post on Art Books with more wonderful artworks from the 1900s on.