CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 11 . . . . February 1, 2002
Every lover of art is familiar with works dedicated to bringing the life and art of the great masters to their audiences by means of more or less the same format: biography, influences, topped off with some references to the actual artwork.
However, art students of all ages will delight in the fresh and innovative approach to art appreciation offered by this series of books which deal with masters of the visual arts. The premise of these books is to examine individual artists' creative process by closely scrutinizing one of their masterpieces, the results of which provide a fascinating glimpse into the genius behind the artwork.
Each book begins with an introduction to the chosen masterpiece which includes background information on the origin of the idea for the work as well as the creative influences the artist was experiencing at the time. From there, every aspect of the work is meticulously dissected into areas of investigation ranging from the elements and principles of design to the influences of others. In the case of the latter, an appropriate visual accompanies the text citing an influential poet, scientist or fellow artist. The artist is revealed through background history, and the processes behind the art production, as well as the legacy inherited by future creative minds. The overall layout draws readers into the mystery behind the masterpiece: the visuals overlap and sidebars seem to pop up out of nowhere. The books conclude with a chronological biography of the artist including a list of art works (and where they can be seen). A concise bibliography also suggests more extensive reading on the artist.
One aspect of these books can be seen as either an advantage or a drawback, depending on the intent of the reader. The text is laid out in a point-by-point, bulleted format. This works well if you want to browse, picking and choosing the information at random. The visuals alone will take you through the entire volume as they are of high quality, dynamic in layout, and are chosen to tell the story visually, without need for text. If, however, you are looking for a good read, you might find this format somewhat choppy.
The concepts and data are insightful but brief, making this series more of an introduction to art appreciation rather than an in-depth examination of the artists profiled.
The authors/editors of the books are authorities in their field, yet their interpretations are both fresh and innovative. The content and vocabulary may challenge many senior high school students, but the visuals alone will be appreciated by students of any grade. This series complements any high school art program where there is an emphasis on visual awareness and art appreciation, with most effective use at the Grade 11/12 level.
worth acquiring as a library resource.
Kirkwood is a teacher of art at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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