of the Book : THE GREAT ARTISTS –Their Lives, Works and Inspiration
(in 96 Parts)
A Marshall Cavendish Weekly Collection
Published by Marshall Cavendish Partworks Ltd., London, 1985
Edited by Clive Gregory.
For an art lover who is a full time professional in some other field, there is nothing like the pride in having this wonderful collection of 96 books (Parts, as they are called by the editor) pertaining to the time, life and works of 96 of the greatest artists (painters) of the western world. I have 85 of the books in my collection spread over many years, and these were difficult to obtain in India. I take out some of them at random from the book shelf, and the artists are Lucas Cranach, Turner, Reynolds, Edward Burra, Monet, Claude Lorrain, Rubens, Rossetti, Piero della Francesca and Courbet. Wow, that is really something!
Parts (books) 1 to 20 cover artists of “The 19th Century: Romanticism and Impressionism” ( Incidentally, I remember Goethe having said that “classic is health and romantic is disease”!). Books 21 to 45 cover the artists of the Renaissance (the 15th and 16th Centuries). The Baroque to Rococo periods (17th and 18th Centuries) are covered in books 46 to 70. Lastly books 71 to 96 cover Modern Art (the 20th century artists).
Each book is uniformly divided into the following sections – the artist’s life; history during the artist’s life; and reproductions of the best works with explanation. That is a neat and excellent package indeed!
It is difficult to cover all the artists in any sense in a review. SO I HAVE THOUGHT OF “SENSUOUS THEMES”, RANDOMLY AS A SUBJECT MATTER, FROM THE WORKS OF THE 96 ARTISTS. Let me give you a quick glimpse of the subject of some works in this field:
Judith, the sexy Jewish seductress, getting into Assyrian General Holofernes’s tent, charming him and beheading him!
Judgement of Paris. The three goddesses Juno, Minerva and Venus are depicted in the nude.
Origin of the Milky Way. Juno, who is Jupiter’s wife, suckles Hercules (I was about to type Herakles!) when the baby’s mortal mother who begets him from Jupiter only, abandons him. Juno’s milk from her breast spurts out.
Story of Leda and the swan (Jupiter in disguise). (Depicts sexual union of a lady with a swan) and the reader to find out more about this! (Why not from Google?)
Lucretia, the classical character. She committed suicide after she was raped. Louis Cranach’s painting of her while committing suicide shows her with naked breasts.
Well, Jupiter seems to have had a field day all his life! The reader may find out the names of the painters concerned, a good exercise indeed!
LET ME PICK UP ANOTHER THEME, NAMELY CLASSICAL STORIES:
Tintoretto’s painting of Bacchus and Ariadne. Ariadne helps Theseus to come out of the maze after killing the Minotaur. However Theseus abandons her. The wine-god Bacchus then marries her.
Masaccio’s painting called “The tribute money” showing Christ and a Tax Collector. The latter type has been a perennial pain to people down to this day! The tax collector asked Christ to pay the tax. Christ told St.Peter to go to the nearby pond and catch a fish and look for a silver coin in its mouth. This work is carried out and the tax collector gets paid!
Masaccio’s painting of St.Peter. St,Peter’s shadow cures sick people.
Cranach the Elder’s painting of “Penance of St.Jerome”. St.Jerome was a great scholar and he spent four years in the desert. He would beat himself on the chest with a stone to overcome vivid sexual hallucinations. The ascetic saints were said to have such hallucinations, notably St.Anthony.
I wonder whether the books under review are out of print. They really provide an ideal platform for art lovers to appreciate great art in the background of history. If the books are out of print, please wake up, Marshall Cavendish!
-Summary/Review by Dr.V.S.Gopalakrishnan