Robert Tanitch’s round-up of books 2

Robert Tanitch’s round-up of books 2

Art Books: Art Deco, Hokusai, James Ensor, Orient Art and Plants

ART DECO SCULPTURE by Alastair Duncan (Thames & Hudson £75) Art Deco, playful, stylized, geometric, can be self-indulgent, twee, garish, kitsch and absurdly camp; and that is often its 1920s/1930s appeal. There is so much to enjoy in the works of Hector Brecheret, Francois Pompon, Boris Lovet-Lorski, Daighilev’s Ballets Russes, Demetri Chiparus, Hagenhauer and Paul Manship.  And then there is the architectural sculpture: the buildings are an absolute knock-out. The book is superbly illustrated.

HOKUSAI A life in Drawing by Henri Alexis Baatsch (Thames & Hudson £19.95).  This is a charming, delightful book, exquisitely produced.  Hokusai (1760-1849) was the most famous of the floating world school which concentrated on ordinary things. In life he was shabby, impoverished, sarcastic, brusque and eccentric. In art he was capable of drawing anything and everything, and, with just a few brush strokes, excelled in all he undertook. He was inventive, prolific, humane, delicate, and highly skilled in the sublime, the ideal, the horrific and the erotic. His paintings of Mount Fugi and the Monstrous Wave are endlessly reproduced.  His bold simplicity and his use of colour greatly impressed European painters and most notably Manet.

BASIC ART SERIES. ENSOR by Ulrike Becks-Malorny Masks, Death and the Sea (Taschen £8.95). James Ensor (1860-1949) was an Expressionist before the term was coined. Recognition for the Belgian painter came late in life. His bizarre, garish, macabre carnival caricatures are fantastical masked figures. Ensor is good with ugly, grimacing madding street mobs, producing an orgy of paint, an inferno of colour. Intrigue and The Entry of Christ into Brussels have an immediate impact. So, too, does Skeletons Fighting over a Pickled Herring, depicting the artist torn to pieces by his critics. The Taschen Basic Arts Series are an invaluable introduction to an artist and a fantastic bargain at £8.95. Buy one and you will probably want to buy others. There are nearly 200 titles to choose from

ORIENT ART by Emile Prisse d’Avennes (Taschen). Prisse (1807-1879) was one of the great 19th century Egyptologists and his chrome-lithograph survey, published between 1869 and 1877 is an exquisite history, rich in detail. The two volumes are published as one book. The first Arab Art covers mosques, domes, ceilings, houses, tombs, grills, ceramics, mosaics, murals and pavements. The colour plates are beautiful in their symmetry, opulence and complexity. The second book is Oriental Album and includes evocative images of soldiers, dancing girls, slaves, merchants, shopkeepers, Bedouins, Nomads, Nubians, harems and camels.

PLANT EXPLORING THE BOTANICAL WORLD (Phaidon £39.95). There are over 300 plants from all over the world: garden plants, rare and erotic plants and botanical art, stone carvings, medieval manuscripts and watercolours. The handsome volume is a celebration of diversity, every page a delight, dramatic, erotic, and so much beauty to choose from: roses by Pierre-Joseph Redoute, plant seed by Claudia Fahrenkemper, eucalyptus by Jean-Baptiste Huyn, a Japanese tree screen by Satatsu School. Then there is banana bush by aboriginal artist Marle Ryder, chrysanthemum by Huang Xu, great water lily by William Sharp and fruit of moon trefoil by Albert Lleal Moya. There are grapes by William Morris, pistol by Brasai and a fluorescent pine stem by Lauren Piedmont. You do not have to have green fingers to appreciate beauty.

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