16 June 2012

Masters of German Art: Hans Holbein by Stephanie Buck

This is a very nice book, both because it has many large, high quality pictures, and because it's a very interesting read. It chronicles Holbein's life from his formative years to his death, as you would expect of any biography. There's also a number of short essays on related subjects like printing, the reformation, and Henry VIII, spread here and there in the book. It's not exactly oversized, but it's still a good sized book - I only wish it were a bit thicker.

As I already mentioned, the images are top notch. I sadly haven't seen any of the paintings in the flesh, so I can't vouch for how faithful the reproductions are in terms of colour or value contrast. But they are all obviously proffessional level photography, clear, sharp pictures that often fill the whole page, sometimes even with full bleed details. Aside from Holbein's paintings and drawings, there are also art by related artist and pictures illustrating the time period.

All in all a very nice biography books with lots of pictures in it. Well worth it if you're a Holbein fan!

Masters of German Art - Hans Holbein
Stephanie Buck
Hard cover with dust jacket, 140 pages
paper quality is the kind of nice glossy paper you'd expect in a full colour art book.
ISBN: 3-8290-2583-1

PS: this portrait is just too good.

15 June 2012

Drawing Lessons From The Great Masters by Robert Beverly Hale

My first review will not be about my first art book. But it's certainly one of the best. My art books generally fall into two categories. The first is books that I read once, and then when I open it again it's just for the pictures. The second is books that doesn't have very fascinating text, and that I only use for the pictures. Drawing Lessons From the Great Masters by Robert Beverly Hale belongs to neither of those categories. This is a book that I've read two times cover to cover, and many, many times a bit here and there. It's a great book, and everyone interested in drawing, realistic or otherwise, should have it.

You know a book is serious when it has foreword, preface, and introduction. The version I have is the 45th anniversary edition, so it has a foreword by Jacob Collins, which is nice. Another thing that is nice is that while there is quite a bit of text in this book, it's divided into very manageable chunks, with lots of gorgeous pictures in between. The different chapters deal with different very basic principles of drawing like Line, Planes, Mass, et cetera. Every chapter begins with a few pages of solid text explaining the principle in question, and then several images illustrating that concept. All the images are printed as large as can fit the page, and on the left side is a miniature version of the drawing and text pointing out how the artist has used a certain principle in the drawing, with the points marked on the miniature.

The real strenght of this book is that while the concepts covered could be considered the basics of drawing, they're really, really important basics, and explained so clearly. One of the ideas that really resonated with me is how you can use primitive forms, like spheres, eggs, blocks, to inform your drawing and shading of a figure. This is something Hale stresses again and again. Some of the concepts can feel a bit dogmatic, like how Hale goes on about how any experienced artist always knows to delete cast shadows because they destroy the form. But even this idea is very well illustrated by the plates, and you soon realize that many of these artists actually were very aware of when a cast shadow confuses a form, and when it enhances it.

The drawings featured in this book is mostly from the renaissance and the baroque, with a few 19th century artists, the latest of which is probably Degas. The reproductions are all grayscale, even if the original drawing was done in red chalk on toned paper. This isn't such a big problem however, the reproductions are still of a very high quality.

There is also a sequel called Anatomy Lessons From the Great Masters, and I've heard that it is inferior to this book. However, I haven't read it myself, so I couldn't really tell. If anyone has it, please chime in!

Drawing Lessons From the Great Masters
Robert Beverly Hale
Soft Cover, 271 pages
paper quality is a nice non-glossy paper ideal for making notes on, if you're so inclined.
ISBN-13: 978-0-8230-1401-9
ISBN-10: 0-8230-1401-0

14 June 2012


Welcome to this blog! This first post is my introduction and mission statement.

As an art student, consumer of images and connoisseur of paintings, my small but growing collection of art related books is very important to me. Every time I go to a museum or specialist book shop, I look for new additions to my bookshelf. Shopping for books this way is easy. You pick up a book, flip through it to get an idea of its quality, and make a decision. However, shopping for art books online can be a bit trickier. Sometimes you get a few images from inside the book, but often you have no way of knowing how good it is except for the cover, and perhaps a few short reviews. This is a problem, because when it comes to art books, there are some really good ones, and then there are some really bad ones. Some books have really bad reproductions, some have really small pictures, and some don't have many pictures at all. And to me, it's important to know this before buying.

My idea with this blog is to write reviews of the books I own, focusing on how good they are from an artist's or art student's point of view, for the benefit of the indecisive buyer. I currently have a little over 60 books on my shelf that I categorize as art books. These include biographies, anthologies, art instructions books, books centered on certain themes or time periods, as well as different reference books that aren't specifically related to art, but that I still count as important to my proffession. I plan on providing plenty of pictures so that readers can form a good understanding of the size and feel of the books. I will probably not take very large or good pictures of the images contained within the books out of respect for the copyright holders. I might, however, link to paintings hosted somewhere else on the web, if there's a painting that is especially worthy of showing.

I hope this blog will be a useful resource for people looking to expand their libraries. I invite all readers to give their own opinions and tips in the comments. Sixty books isn't a lot, and I know I'm always interested in book recommendations!

Oh, and one last thing. I won't post links to where you can buy the books. The reason for this is that Amazon, while a great place for finding books, doesn't always offer the best price. Often there are differences in prices even between the US and UK versions of the site. Sometimes you can find a copy cheapest there, sometimes not. Sometimes the author of a book sells it directly from his or her own website. And since I've already bought these books, I'm not interested in hunting down the best price for them, neither do I want to direct you to a bad deal. So if you want a book, shop around for a bit. It'll be worth it.