Robert Tanitch’s round-up of books. No 3
PANORAMA OF THE THAMES A Riverside View of Georgian London by John R Inglis & Jill Sanders (Thames & Hudson £29.95). One of the nicest things on a summer’s day for a tourist in London is a river trip on The Thames. This winter you can sit in your armchair and enjoy the same trip but see what it was like to be on The Thames in 1829. The 60-foot hand-coloured panorama of both banks from Westminster to Richmond is fascinating and charming. The fifteen mile journey is a gentle and irresistible delight. In the summer I intend take the book with me on a river trip.
SITA RAM’S PAINTED VIEWS OF INDIA: LORD HASTING’S JOURNAL FROM CULCUTTA TO PUNJAB (Thames & Hudson £35) records a 17-month long expedition in a flotilla of 220 boats. For those who enjoy armchair travel this is another delightful book. The 60-year-old Governor General of Bengal inspects British possessions and visits Indian dignitaries. You can enjoy the scenery and the splendour of the buildings, as captured by Sita Ram, whilst reading his diary. Lord Hastings is always aware that English reserve is patronising and insulting to Indians. Ram’s large watercolours, over 200 of them, executed with exquisite precision, are an invaluable archive of the Colonial era and delightful in themselves
DIOR NEW LOOKS (Thames & Hudson £65). 12 February, 1947 is a day in the fashion calendar no haute couturist will ever forget. The whole fashion attitude seemed to move the whole structure of the body. “A dress is not made to be admired on a hanger or a magazine but to be worn with ease and pleasure,” said Dior, the King of Fashion, who dominated for a decade. You can see why here: one stunning image after another, sharp, elegant, chic and above all, new.
THE FIRST BOOK OF FASHION The book of clothes of Matthaus & Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg (Bloomsbury £29.99.) Matthaus and Veit were father and son. If you wanted to cut a figure in the early part of the 16th century, this is how you would be dressed. The book covers two lives, told through the clothes, each captioned with the exact date and with the exact age, going from boyhood to teenager to manhood to old age. There are detailed commentaries of the clothes for specialists in fashion; it’s a fascinating collection, invaluable as a source reference, but also charming in its own right for the non-specialist, too.
BILL VIOLA (Thames & Hudson £40.00) is one of the most celebrated video artists and this book, the first complete monograph, richly and dramatically illustrated, does him proud. The amazing images, celebrating beauty and the spiritual life, carry an emotional impact. “I see,” says Viola, “that media technology is not at odds with our inner selves but in fact a reflection of it.” The book is record of such works as Messenger, Greeting and Going Forth By Day.Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) installed in St Paul’s Cathedral is particularly powerful and moving
LIVES OF THE GREAT PHOTOGRAPHERS by Juliet Hacking (Thames & Hudson £28). There are portraits and notable examples of the work of 38 famed photographers from Julia Margaret Cameron to the present day whose lives and backgrounds are examined in very accessible detail. It really is a must for anybody interested in the history of photography. “I invent nothing, I imagine everything,” said Brassai. “Photography,” said August Sander, “can reproduce things with impressive beauty or even with cruel accuracy but it can also be outrageously deceptive.”