Robert Tanitch reviews two books
THE PRADO MASTERPIECES (Thames & Hudson). If you are in Madrid, a visit to The Prado, one of the world’s greatest museums, is essential – if only to see the works of El Greco, notably Nobleman with His Hand on his Chest; Velazquez’s portraits, Las Meninas and The Crucified Christ; and Goya, The Maja Clothed and Naked, Los Caprichos. I was in high heaven.
But I remember I also had the joy of discovering Van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross and Ribera’s Jacob’s Dream. There are many delights in this wonderful collection, so handsomely reproduced. Page after page there is so much to revisit and discover anew: Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath Zurbaran’s The Crucified Christ and Gisbert’s The Execution of Torrijos and His Companions; and that is just for starters.
WEATHERLAND by Alexandra Harris (Thames & Hudson £9.99). I have been really aware of the weather on few occasions: London blinded by smog, The Thames flooding, a storm which felled the trees in Hyde Park (looking like giant dead soldiers), reading King Lear, looking at Turner and Whistler and listening to Verdi’s Othello. It would have been fun to have been around in November 1703 and go skating and shopping on a solid iced Thames. Alexandra Harris takes the reader on a rewarding historical journey through literature and art.
“My subject is not weather itself,” she says, “but the weather as it is recreated by the human imagination.” She writes beautifully, the text, full of quotes, critiques and anecdotes, embracing the earliest Anglo-Saxon poets and going on through the centuries to Wordsworth, Coleridge (who raced to be in a storm and found himself in only a shower!) Turner, Ruskin, Constable, Hughes and so many, many more.