Robert Tanitch reviews three books
A Chronology of Art edited by Iain Zaczek (Thames & Hudson £19.95). A Timeline of Western Culture from Prehistory to the Present from cave to high street. I like this book very much. It is highly accessible and gives a sharp and fresh perspective on the evolution of art. It is useful to see the works in context, social, political and cultural. Attractively presented, it is richly illustrated with familiar and unfamiliar images. It makes for a fascinating journey, refreshing the memory, filling in gaps, adding a deeper understanding and every page encouraging further exploration of the artist in question. It is a useful reference and a delight just to dip into.The price of the book is an absolute bargain.
Seeing Ourselves. Women’s Self-Portraits by Frances Borzello (Thames & Hudson £18.95). How many female painters can you name? Exactly, that’s the point. The art world was predominantly male; but women have been there all along. There’s a good selection here from the 16th century to the present day. There is much to surprise and admire. Borzello, always interesting and pertinent, is a wake-up call which makes the reader aware of how much they may have been missing. It’s good to discover portraits by Sofonisba Anguissola, Elizabeth Vigee Lebrun, Mary Beale, Therese Schwartze, Anna Bilinska and many others.
Our Great Canal Journeys by Timothy West (John Blake £20). A lifetime of memories on Britain’s beautiful waterways. The Channel 4 television series has been hugely successful and very much part of that success is that Timothy West and Prunella Scales, husband and wife, genuine canal lovers, two popular actors, equally adept in tragedy and comedy, are the presenters. What has given the series its added poignancy is the knowledge that though Prunella Scales is suffering from mild dementia and her immediate memory has gone, there is a strong affirmation that life can and does go on. The programme has done a lot of good. Timothy West, an excellent raconteur, writes with affection and humour.