Best books about art of 2018
As we enter 2019, there is a plethora of suggested “Best of 2018” books for the general public. The Vail Valley Art Guild and the Vail Valley Art Guild Photographers has compiled a list of the best books about art produced this year.
Whether or not you are an artist, it matters not. Those who dabble in the arts may find the following suggestions rewarding. Reading about art is a bonding and creative endeavor, and a healthy mental one at that. Here are some suggestions, which have longevity and intellectual substance.
‘The Painter and The Photograph, From Delacroix to Warhol’
Artists and photographers have had a unique bond since the invention of the camera obscura and introduction of the photographic process dating back to the late 1830s. Early artists were those of the gentry class who painted artistic scenes and memorialized personages through their paintings. When the camera was introduced, the mechanical device, a democratic one at that, created works of art that were more exacting than a painting. Eventually, over the discourse of time and experimentation, a conflict in the art world centered upon the unique relationship between the creators of paintings and photographs — did the photographer copy the painter’s work, or did the painter copy the photographer’s work for inspirational purposes?
Van Deren Coke’s book, “The Painter and The Photograph, From Delacroix to Warhol,” illustrates the history of this dilemma, this unique bond between the painter and the photographer, and it is an outstanding read. An example in Coke’s book is the Matisse painting of Baudelaire and the photographic portrait of him by the photographer Etienne Carjat, a striking similarity, confirming that painting from photographs was a early common practice in France. The act of photographing now challenged the artists’ position. The photograph tremendously impacted Degas and others. A painting by Picasso titled, “The Charnel House, 1945” is cited in Coke’s book as compared to a photograph titled, “Belsen Concentration Camp (mass grave), 1945,” photographer unknown, both with similar concepts. Which came first? Who influenced whom? This book is an excellent reference book on how both art forms interacted with one another, and how they changed the history of art.
‘The History of Photography’
Beaumont Newhall’s book, “The History of Photography,” is likewise an excellent primer and reference book on photography from 1839 to present. This author, a two-time Guggenheim winner and Doctorate of the Arts from Harvard and other allocates is a recognized authority on photography. Newhall states in his preface that photography is at once a science and an art. Newhall’s study ranges from Daguerre, the Daguerreotype, to the colored images of Joel Meyerowitz. This scholarly chronicle is excellent reading for those who desire an understanding of the history of photography, and its relationship to the other arts.
‘Photographers on Photography, How the Masters See, Think & Shoot’
A recently published book by Henry Carroll titled, “Photographers on Photography, How the Masters See, Think & Shoot,” is interesting as he takes certain master photographers and studies their writings, philosophy and images, an understanding into their philosophical, esoteric thinking. From Lisette Model, “Photography is the easiest art, which perhaps makes it the hardest,” to Richard Avadon: “My photographs don’t go below the surface. They don’t go below anything. They’re readings of what’s on the surface.” Or another, Ansel Adams: “A photograph is usually looked at — seldom looked into.”
‘Why People Photograph’
Robert Adams, known for his photographic work in Denver and the Front Range, was a collegiate English teacher prior to his photographic work which has centered upon the American West. He was one of the founders of the New Topographics School of Photography, which impacted so many artists that were commencing photography careers in the late 1960s and 70s. His books are noteworthy, one of which is “Why People Photograph.”
He believes in the affirmation of life for photographers, non-photographers and artists. He states, “At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is great and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly …” Light, a basic element in painting and photography, and “the act of seeing” are cornerstones of his philosophy. Identifying with Edward Hopper’s painterly philosophy, he states that art matters, that “Photographers may or may not make a living by photography … but they are alive by it.”
‘Ways of Seeing’
One cannot pass up on the writings, philosophy of art by the British art critic, John Berger who has written numerous books on art, called, “Ways of Seeing.” Using paintings and photographs in his book, Berger is of the opinion that, “seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak” and shares why it is so. The surrealist painter Magritte commented on this always-present gap between words and seeing in a painting called “The Key of Dreams.”
Books such as those suggested here create a bond between artists, photographers, non-artists and the general public. Those who dabble in the arts may appreciate such recommendations going into the new year, as well as members of Vail Valley Art Guild and Vail Valley Art Guild Photographers, local artists and photographers.