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Masterpieces of Western Art [Hardcover]

By Ingo F. Walther (Editor)
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Item description for Masterpieces of Western Art by Ingo F. Walther...

Traces the history of painting from medieval times. The book has 10 chapters that include essays profiling the age and achievements of major artists, and present selected works, accompanied by commentaries. The reader is guided through the techniques and motifs of the artists, and familiarised with the spirit and background concerns of the age.

Publishers Description
Artist to artist, era to era, century to century Masterpieces of Western Art traces the history of painting from medieval times to the present day. But unlike conventional publications, that merely illustrate a few essentials, this work places 900 paintings taken from every era squarely in the foreground. The ten chapters each feature an introductory essay profiling the age and the achievements of the major artists, and then present selected works accompanied by searching commentaries. The reader is guided through the techniques and motifs of the artists, and familiarised with the spirit and background concerns of the age. Artist to artist, era to era, century to century, Masterpieces of Western Art adds up to an authoritative history - it is for browsing, too, where the reader can make new discoveries or meet old friends on every page. This imaginary museum of eight centuries of masterpieces by over 500 artists is a place to explore, to acquire a richer understanding of art - a reliable history, a handbook, as entertaining as it is instructive.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   760
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 3" Width: 9.75" Height: 12.5"
Weight:   13.14 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2005
Publisher   Taschen
ISBN  3822847461  
ISBN13  9783822847466  

Availability  0 units.

More About Ingo F. Walther

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ingo F. Walther was born in Berlin and studied medieval studies, literature, and art history in Frankfurt am Main and Munich. He has published numerous books on the art of the Middle Ages and of the 19th and 20th centuries. He died on April 21, 2007.

Ingo F. Walther died in 2007.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Art History > General
2Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Art Instruction & Reference > General
3Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Art Instruction & Reference > Study & Teaching
4Books > Subjects > History

Reviews - What do customers think about Masterpieces of Western Art?

A Museum on Your Coffee Table...  Mar 24, 2008
...if your table is stout enough to hold it. This book is large and heavy, but bound well enough to stand up to a lot of use. It's essentially a catalogue of European and American painting from the beginning of the 19th Century to the end of the 20th. Approximately 500 paintings are reproduced, two per page, with brief, intelligent commentaries. Another reviewer declares that the color quality is poor, but perhaps he had another edition. I've seen a large percaentage of the selected paintings in museums and the reproductions match my memories quite well. Of course a postcard-sized reproduction cannot capture the whole impact of the real thing. What's valuable in this book is the excellent choices and the possibility of considering them together. Almost a third of the book is devoted to painting since 1945. I find this section the most valuable, especially because it stretches beyond any one school or nationality to include very powerful works from Latin America, southern Europe, and the USA, as well as the most recognized masters of France and Germany. Thus Gerhard Richter meets Cy Twombly and Jean-Michel Basquiat encounters Fernando Botero.

Each section of the book is prefaced by an overview of the general trends of the era, by capable art historians such as Volkmar Essers and Christa von Lengerke. The texts are flawlessly translated from German into idiomatic English. The final section of the book consists of brief biographies of the artists represented. Note that this is the second of two volumes. I haven't examined the first volume. For the price, this book will serve as an exciting guide to the glories of modern art, preparing you for the experience of touring the great museums where most of these paintings can be seen.
Visual Arts Of The Planet From The Big-Bang Until Yesterday?  Dec 2, 2006
Most of the expensive art history texts cover the visual arts from the breadth of the planet dating back to approximately the start of civilization about 30,000 years ago. I love art, but I must confess that I am primarily interested in just western painting and sculpture. This book, Masterpieces of Western Art, is a wonderful find for those who share my interests, although it should be noted that this set of books does not cover sculpture.

Here's why it's such a great book.
1. It's the best compilation of art that you will ever find at a price that is so unbelievably low. It's printed on good paper, and the reproductions are quite adequate. Whenever I read reviews of art books I generally find reviewers who complain about the image quality. One reviewer has made such a complaint about this book. He used, as an example, the paintings of Caravaggio. I decided to make a little test so I took several of the most prominent general texts and books dedicated to Caravaggio and compared each one's reproduction of Caravaggio's "Entombment of Christ". In Masterpieces of Western Art the painting seems to be a trifle over exposed resulting in a higher contrast picture with some slight loss of detail in the shadows. Color was well balanced. I used 5 other books for my comparison. In one text costing four times the price of this book the reproduction had a slight greenish tint. There were slight variations in all of the books that I used for comparison. Which one is the best? The only real way to tell is to go to the Vatican and look at the original.
2. Most all of the major painters are represented in this book, and you will also find numerous paintings by other minor painters who are quite skilled. These are painters that you quite often won't even find in art history texts or even some of the specialized art books.
3. Each painting is accompanied by such things as the description of the painter's technique, decoding of the symbolism used, and the social context of the painting.
4. Each chapter has an introduction of about 20 pages that explains the styles or periods (baroque, mannerism, rococo, etc.) of painting and/or countries being examined. This material is well written and easily understood by the general reader. The introductions and commentary will provide you with an excellent introduction or refresher course in art. Please don't call this a "coffee table book" as it is so much more than that.
5. Volume II has a lengthy appendix that contains a biography of every painter included in this work.

I cannot believe that there is a better set of books on western painting sold at such an unbelievable price. It includes 900 paintings of 500 artists. You'll find an interesting painting by Johann Carl Roth, a painter that you won't find a mention of in art history texts. Forget the biggies like Hanson, Gardner, Stokstad, and even good old Sister Wendy. Buy this set and enjoy.
Very dissappointing  Nov 23, 2006
There are several editions of this book, I am reviewing the two-volume slipcase edition. These books are not nearly as good as the 5 star reviews would make you think.

Taschen is known for publishing high quality art books at low prices. I have purchased many of their books and have usually been very happy. I was hoping to see the same quality with this work, but instead I was very dissapointed.

The reproductions are of shockingly poor quality. They have incorrect, washed-out colors and are lacking in detail. Unfortunately, it is many of the greatest masters, like Titian and Caravaggio, who get the worst treatment.

As way of comparison, Taschen publishes a series of cheap $10 paperbacks called the Basic Art series. I own several of these volumes and the reproductions are vastly superior to what you'll find here. Holding them side by side, the difference is like night and day.

If you are looking for an introductory survey of Western art, Gombrich's Story of Art is better written, cheaper, and has better images. Also, as mentioned, Taschen's Basic Art series is an excellent set of introductory books with the best color reproductions you'll find in that price range.
To bad, not so famous.....  Aug 14, 2006
For it's great content. I found this books by chance, the only regret I have not founding it earlier. Well organized; a great source of information for somebody interested in Western Art. I am not an expert so if something trigger my curiosity I go to the precise period or certain artist. From Gothic to Present you find something about any artist you want to know. I highly recommend this book.
A fine overview  May 25, 2002
A book thorough in its presentation of Western art from the Gothic period on through the period of Neoclassicism, the authors of the chapters in it have given the reader a fine overview of the art techniques used in this time period. They also attempt to explain the various rationale and motivations of the artists themselves in creating the artforms that they did. These attempts will of course remain points of controversy, for it is difficult, and the authors cannot claim with certainty, any correlation between the artforms and the political, personal, and social philosophies of the time periods discussed. But the author's speculations on these reasons entice readers to form their own, and this enhances the didactic quality of the book.

In the discussion of the Gothic era, for example, the author (Robert Suckale) claims that the art of this period was to be contrasted with that of the Middle Ages, which exclusively produced works that protrayed life in the hereafter. A sharp boundary would be difficult to draw between the Gothic and Middle Ages though, so it should be concluded that his statement is one that could be characterized as dealing with "averages" over the works produced. Certainly some exceptions or deviations could be found in the works of the Gothic era as well as the Middle Ages. It might be perhaps more precise to classify time periods in art relative to the techniques used rather than the content, especially when comparing two points in history that are separated by a relatively short time scale. Therefore it is easier to accept that art at the end of the Gothic period was very different in content than the beginning of the Middle Ages, but as one shrinks the time scale separating these endpoints, the distinction becomes more difficult.

in addition, Suckale emphasizes the role of the artist as architect in the Gothic period, with geometrical considerations viewed as "natural" and therefore subject to the dynamism displayed by nature. This lead to complex mathematical configurations coupled with intricate non-geometric components. The "fresco" technique had its origin in this time period, and Suckale takes the reader through the process of how this was done, it requiring the artist to work very quickly. The ramifications of the Black Death on commerce at the time influenced art dramatically, Suckale argues, and resulted, interestingly, with an explosion of both religious and secular works of art. The survivors of the Black Death were those of the repentant and those who felt life was short and must be enjoyed to the fullest. Suckale also explains the switching by artists from the pattern book to the sketch book, resulting in more originality by the artists.

Manfred Wundram follows in the next article with a discussion of the early Renaissance period, which can be characterized he says by emphasis on portraiture and landscape painting. He claims that fine art is a means of expression of humankinds general cultural and intellectual history, and that religious and political conditions play a major role in shaping the art forms of a particular era. Art intepretation, he says, cannot happen without visual evidence. Any attempt to do so is mere speculation. These comments are to some extent convincing, but the interpretation of all art, regardless of the time period in which it was produced, should be left to the mind of the observer, in whatever framework such an observer chooses, be it a modern viewpoint or one that is actually attempting to relate the artwork to the time period in which it was produced. Pure speculation in the appreciation of art is thus permissible and is to be encouraged.

Wundrum continues his analysis in the next article on the Renaissance and Mannerism, in which he argues, painting reached an absolute zenith. Readers preferences may prohibit an agreement with this characterization of the Renaissance however. In the artworks displayed in this article, a good example being the Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist, one can see what Wundrum describes as color modulation, as the gradual dissolving of outlines. Wundrum also discusses in detail the origins of the term Mannerism and its problematic use in describing some of the art in this time period, and as being a transition between Renaissance and Baroque. And interestingly from a modern perspective is the exaggeration and deformation of the ideal human figure which took place under the category of Mannerism, supposedly according to the author to make more of an expressive impact.

In the next article, Andreas Prater takes the reader through the Baroque period, the art in this period reflecting the ostentation and exuberance of the times. He argues that the art of this period is very difficult to define and characterize, and he summarizes the attempts to do so in detail. Illusionism and distortion of reality he says, are characteristics of the Baroque period. This is not readily apparent in the artworks displayed in this section however, unless one view angels, unicorns, etc as a distortion of reality, and not merely a flight of fancy on the part of the artist. In fact a certain degree of optimisim is present, a good example being "Seaport at Sunrise' by Claude Lorrain.

Hermann Bauer continues with the Baroque period but from the standpoint of the Netherlands in the next article. The paintings seem more naturalistic in this case, the landscapes more serene, with an overabundance of earth tones. The "Honeysuckle Bower" of Peter Paul Rubens has to rank as one of the most impressive studies in detail ever put on canvas. Rembrandt's "Slaughtered Ox" is characteristically post-Modern.

Eva-Gresine Baur ends the book with an article on Rococo and Neoclassicism. The use of pastels characterizes this period, argues Baur, and she describes these methods in detail. She characterizes the art of this period as a repression of fear, and without agreeing with this statement, the artworks listed do seem to exemplify a certain degree of escapism.


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