Robert Tanitch reviews two books
Vermeer in Detail by George Schwartz (Ludion £34-95)
I think it would be impossible to love someone who did not love the Dutch painter (1632-1675).
Vermeer, flawless in composition and handling of light, is there for all to see. Schwartz gets really close. The subtle, sensual and understated domestic scenes, interior and exterior, have a powerful reality. The detail is amazing
The portraits are dominated by young women with water pitchers, wine glasses, virginals, lutes and harpsichords and lovers. There are so many love letters. Everyone is dressed according to her station, mistress, maid, and servant. These young women with their ear rings, head scarves, shawls, lace, awake, working, asleep, laughing, mysterious, charming, seductive, flirtations, are always available. Interrupted they turn to look over their shoulders and catch us looking at them.
The portraits have serenity, harmony and psychological depth. The volume is going to give a lot of pleasure.
Alcohol (Fuel £19.95)
More than any other people in the world the Russians are devoted to drinking. These Russian posters are from 1960 to the 1980s and focus in particular on Mikhail Gorbachev’s Campaign to sober up the nation.
The posters, crude, direct, bold and simplistic in their statements, are aimed at the coarsened, uneducated, work-shy working classes whose absenteeism and shoddy workmanship have played havoc with the economy – the government’s chief concern.
The message is repeated again and again: Alcohol is the enemy of production… Alcohol is evil… Drunkenness is criminal… Drunkenness won’t be tolerated.
The caricatures seem to depict a proletariat from another and earlier era.
The campaign failed. The public turned to other spirit substances, such as cologne, chemicals and pharmacy. The campaign was a key factor in the 1987 economic crisis.
This is a book to look at and read; and preferably with a bottle of Vodka by your side.