Monday, September 26, 2016

The One New Art Book You Must Have: My Pick of the Best of New Fall Books — Part Two

This week I’ve selected one fantastic new art tome for your reference library and for your lifetime collection of beautiful and inspiring books.

‘The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings’ , at 544 pages, offers a vivid history of 5,000 years of painting from the museum’s treasures.

It is a beautifully provocative book with many surprises and the dramatic and thrilling landscape of art through the centuries.

I’m obsessed with art, and I love the treasury of ideas, techniques, spiritual longing, expression, and thought.

There’s a Picasso grisaille portrait juxtaposed with an ethereal portrait of a Korean scholar, and iconic depictions through the centuries. Manet jostles Monet. Sargent greets de Kooning. Raphael jousts with Vermeer. Rembrandt glares at Warhol.

Come and see some pages—and meet the who’s who of art. 

Head exploding: With 544 pages and 1100 color images of the Met’s art and sculpture collection, this book is intense. Masterpieces, indeed. 

Turn pages to enjoy Indian miniatures, Persian portraits, Cezanne’s dance classes, Australian tribal sculptures, Papuan paintings, Sargent, Gauguin, Fantin-Latour, Balthus, Bacon, and O’Keeffe and Warhol, as well as Gérome’s fantastically fetishy portrait of Bashi-Bazouk. 

The cover of this Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings tome is the impeccable Ingres portrait of Joséphine-Eléonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Béarn, Princesse de Broglie. This exquisite piece alone is worth the price of admission. 

Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, 1853–1890
Oil on canvas;
16 × 12 1/2 in. (40.6 × 31.8 cm)
Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot
(1876–1967), 1967 (67.187.70a)

(Francisco de Goya y Lucientes)
Spanish, 1746–1828
Oil on canvas;
50 × 40 in. (127 × 101.6 cm)
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.41)

The book is glossy and weighty. It presents lavish color illustrations and details of masterworks in all media, created in cultures across the globe. 

One brilliant aspect is the exciting juxtaposition of cultures and styles and creativity, with works presented chronologically from the dawn of civilization to today. Japanese gilded screens stand alongside mediaeval altarpieces. Leonard Lauder’s cubist portraits by Picasso seem to jump from the page. And in the central section—the history of religious fervor—there are enough versions of ‘The Annunciation’ to inspire reflection on adoration and symbolism. 

Exploration of wild glories of the planet, portraiture, abstraction, craft, power, and the many ways of depicting dress, fashion, and silk move the fascination from page to page. 

ca. 1427–32
Workshop of Robert Campin
Netherlandish, ca. 1375–1444
Oil on oak; overall (open) 25 3/8 × 46 3/8 in.
(64.5 × 117.8 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 1956 (56.70a–c)

(Rembrandt van Rijn)
Dutch, 1606–1669
Oil on canvas;
31 5/8 × 26 1/2 in. (80.3 × 67.3 cm)
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913

It’s a well-selected compendium of masterworks—a lingering visit-- and even if you spent days and weeks lurking at the Met you could never find or see them all. 

Chinese scrolls, Greek urns, an Egyptian sarcophagus or two, and then through the centuries to Vermeer and Rembrandt and onward Turner and Kandinsky, it’s a feast. 

Gustav Klimt
Austrian, 1862–1918
Oil on canvas;
59 × 43 1/2 in. (149.9 × 110.5 cm)
Gift of André and Clara Mertens, in memory
of her mother, Jenny Pulitzer Steiner, 1964

Claude Monet
French, 1840–1926
Oil on canvas;
38 5/8 × 51 1/8 in. (98.1 × 129.9 cm)
Purchase, special contributions and funds
given or bequeathed by friends of the Museum,
1967 (67.241)

One double page spread I’ve been looking at for days is the hallucinogenic landscape, ‘Heart of the Andes’ (1859) by Frederick Edwin Church. You are there, standing on a mountain in Ecuador gazing in ecstasy. 

Seascapes, interiors, religious ecstasy are all here. 

The chronological sequence offers up surprises. One of my favorite spreads contrasts a full-page Lucian Freud portrait of Leigh Bowery’s massive nude back with, on the opposite page, an up-close portrait by Chuck Close. 

Notes on each painting are written by Kathryn Calley Galitz, a curator and educator at The Met. 

All images here published with express permission of Rizzoli USA.

About this book:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings by Kathryn Calley Galitz, and a foreword by Thomas P. Campbell (Skira Rizzoli 2016)

For more information on these books and other new Rizzoli books:


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