Art Books: Leonardo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dutch Flemish paintings and Bird Painters

Art Books: Leonardo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dutch Flemish paintings and Bird Painters

Robert Tanitch’s Round-Up of Books No 1 (2019)

Leonardo: The Complete Paintings and Drawings 1452-1519 by Frank Zollner (Taschen) On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, this truly magnificent erudite volume celebrates his genius: his consummate mastery, his range and productivity, his ceaseless painstaking research, his scrupulous accuracy, his graphic precision and his deep insight. Virgin of the Rocks, Portrait of Cecilia, the elusive Mona Lisa,, the dramatic intensity of The Last Supper with its wide ranging reactions, so lifelike, aree seen in close-up,


Rembrandt: The Self-Portraits (Taschen £50) is a beautiful, spectacular pictorial autobiography from 1606, when Rembrandt was 22 years old, to 1669 when he was 63. He changes from spontaneous, dishevelled, curly-haired, wide-eyed, laughing youth to handsome, neat, fashionable young man to sober and bankrupt old age. He looks the viewer straight in the eye. The faces, brilliantly lit, run a gamut of emotions. The beret remains his constant trademark. The paintings are an excellent means of self-advertisement, the perfect calling card.


The Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish Painting by Norbert Wolf (Prestel £99). A concentrated collection of paintings viewed within a contemporary historical context: Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals plus Fabritius, Jordaens, Hobemma, Van Riusdael and many more. A golden age indeed, richly illustrated. Rembrandt’s Prometheus Bound, Bathsheba having a bath, Aristotle and Bust of Homer plus milkmaids, wardens, aged matrons, a woman reading a letter, an avenue of trees, a letter board, a bouquet of flowers, and, of course, A View of Delft. Here are paintings you know well and love and there are many paintings, which deserve to be better known, such as Fabritius’s self-portrait and his portrait of a sentry.


Vincent Van Gogh: A Portrait of the Artists Life and Work by Cornelia Homburg (Andre Deutsch £25) Paintings and letters and personal documents including a police report on his mental stability. He put his heart and soul into his art and in the process lost his mind. He committed suicide in 1890. Van Gogh painted over 800 paintings: peasants, potato eaters, self-portraits (those piercing eyes), sunflowers, the frenzied landscapes and the starry nights, a constant delight. He sold only one in his lifetime.


Birds Ornithology and The Great Bird Artists by Roger Lederer (Andre Deutsch £30) Aristotle recognised 123 species. Today we know 10,000 or so across the world. Here is a compendium of beautiful birds by 40-bird orientated artists. The volume begins with the Flemish painter Frans Snyders in the early 1600s and continues through to today and shows the effects that ornithology knowledge and attitudes towards birds has had. As the centuries go by the art becomes more and more scientifically accurate.


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