David Ekserdjian

The Duke of Wellington also invades Christmas art books

Art books fall naturally into various categories, of which the most common is probably the monograph. Judith Zilczer’s A Way of Living: The Art of Willem de Kooning (Phaidon, £59.95, Spectator Bookshop, £53.95) examines its hero’s career from his extraordinarily accomplished — and resolutely conventional — teenage productions, by way of his glorious middle years,

A selection of recent art books

With one or two exciting exceptions, almost all art books fall into a very limited number of easily identified categories, such as the monograph and the exhibition catalogue. In some cases, of course, they cunningly manage to be both, not least since the authors of some exhibition catalogues seem to feel that the last thing

The most Shakespearean of painters

Titian’s paintings have always been both loved and revered, and he is without question the most influential artist who has ever lived. In the 17th century, Rubens, Van Dyck, Velázquez and Rembrandt were all under his benign spell, but even more remarkably over 400 years after his death his power continues to impress. It is

Live on in paintings

Like all self-respecting geniuses, Raphael (1483-1520) died young at the age of 37. For over a decade, he had been based in Rome, and had enjoyed fame, wealth and success beyond the dreams of almost any other artist of the day (Leonardo and Michelangelo were his only rivals). His standing in the highest circles —

The king of chiaroscuro

These days, it is easy to take it for granted that Caravaggio (1571-1610) is the most popular of the old masters, yet it was not ever thus. In my Baedeker’s Central Italy (published exactly 100 years ago), he is acknowledged as having been ‘the chief of the Naturalist School’, but it is pointed out that

A choice of art books

First, and by no means simply by virtue of its weight, is Judy Egerton’s George Stubbs, Painter: Catalogue Raisonné (Yale, £95), which effortlessly combines awesome scholarly authority with what in academic circles is, alas, a far rarer commodity — wit. Seen whole and supported by such eloquent advocacy, Stubbs emerges as a truly great artist,

Christmas art books | 2 December 2006

The seemingly unstoppable rise of the exhibition catalogue happily does not mean that nothing else gets published, and my selection of glossy delights to drive away the Boxing Day blues has more than its fair share of goodies that were not born in museums. The Royal Tombs of Egypt by Zahi Hawass (Thames & Hudson,

Coping with the Van Gogh syndrome

In the context of the visual arts, the notion of misunderstood genius is a comparatively recent one, and seems to be a by-product of Romanticism. In spite of such exceptions as Vermeer, whose current reputation stands so much higher than it did in his own day, in the main the Old Master canon remains startlingly

Christmas art books

The only halfway festive offering in this year’s crop of art books is Laurence Kanter and Pia Palladino’s Fra Angelico. Even in these secularised times, Angelico is still a favourite in the Christmas card stakes. First and foremost, however, this is a major scholarly reassessment of the artist’s career, but it also doubles as the

Recent arts books

This year’s crop of art books for Christmas is the usual mixed bunch, and if they have anything in common, it is their general lack of festive associations. The one exception is M. A. Michael’s Stained Glass of Canterbury Cathedral (Scala, £25), a beautifully illustrated picture book with an exemplary and truly instructive text, which

Renaissance man in all his richness

The major challenge faced by biographers of artists is the almost impossible one of dealing with equal authority with their lives and works. It is tempting to wonder whether this is not one of the reasons why so few of them are written by art historians, although there are of course heroic exceptions, of which

A conservative convict

At the moment, a whole room of the Sainsbury wing in the Nation- al Gallery is devoted to Carlo Crivelli (c. 1430-95), but even the author of this monumental, learned, and absorbing monograph would not claim that he is a household name. Perhaps he is too much of a one-off to merit that double-edged accolade,

Keeping one’s head above water in Venice

I have an unusually vivid recollection of the first time I met John Hall. I went to his flat in Chelsea to be interviewed – as I thought – to establish whether I might make a suitable lecturer for his Pre-University Course in Venice. However, when I arrived, he got straight down to the nitty-

A selection of art books

I cannot think of many less festive offerings than Richard Avedon Portraits (Abrams, £24.95), but it has to be admitted that his merciless exposure of such grotesques as a blood-and-guts-spattered rattlesnake-skinner and a Duncan Goodhew-lookalike beekeeper, whose naked body is swarming with the six-legged tools of his trade, makes one sit up and take note.