17 October 2012

The Art of Lord Leighton by Christopher Newall

This, like the Holbein book, is one of the few art books on my shelf that I've actually read the text in from cover to cover. This book is more than just a biography; Christopher Newall doesn't just recount the events of Frederick Leighton's life, but also offers a critical view of his work. Sometimes so critical that I almost start wondering if Mr. Newall likes Leighton at all! But it is a very interesting text, and I find myself wishing that more biographies were written in this way, trying to evaluate the work of an artist, instead of being too respectful to say anything but good things about him.

The quality of the book is very good, and so far it's survived many, many flips through its pages. The reproductions are very nice, often large or full page. The book does commit the crime of printing some paintings over a spread, but the binding is so nice that the gutter isn't that big of a problem, and the payoff of the larger image is worth it. Especially worth it since many of Leighton's paintings have a very wide format and feature dozens of figures and lots of juicy details. This of course means that these pictures lend themselves well to gutter-printing, unlike a certain painting by Repin. If you are going to print something over a gutter, take some tips from this book, since they do it so well even I can justify it! Some paintings are reproduced in black and white, mostly drawings and sculptures, but also some paintings that they apparently weren't able to get new reproductions of.

What I really like about Leighton's work is its decorative qualities, which is certainly something that Leighton and the aesthetic movement were pushing. I love the idea that nothing you include in your painting is there by accident, and that if you're going to draw something, you might as well make the effort to make it beautiful. Not all art should be this way, but when the world seems gray and hard, let Lord Leighton transport you to worlds of colour and beauty! I definitely recommend this book.

The Art of Lord Leighton
Christopher Newall
Soft Cover, 144 pages
paper quality is a nice, thick, glossy kind of paper
ISBN: 0-7148-2957-9

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