New art books: Camille Pissarro, Samuel Palmer, art heists, Girl in a Green Gown & Man With a Blue Scarf…

This month our picks of the new art books include something bold, something new, something stolen, and something blue (and green). Read about European modernism, sitting for a portrait, stealing Rembrandts, some very famous paintings, and more. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverAvant-garde art in everyday life : early-twentieth-century European modernism / edited by Matthew S. Witkovsky ; with essays by Jared Ash … [et al.].
“Purposeful jumbles of eye-popping graphics, zany color insertions, zipping diagonals, mixtures of typefaces, and disparities in scale are hallmarks of the early 20th-century European graphic and design avant-garde and are featured in this studious exhibition catalog. Witkovsky, chair of the Art Institute’s department of photography, gathers essays on John Heartfield, Gustav Klutsis, El Lissitzky, Ladislav Sutnar, Karel Teige, and Piet Zwart. The collection emphasizes the range of their designs (e.g., posters, drawings, photographs, illustrated magazines, book jackets, advertising, postage stamps, clothing, table settings) influenced by Dada, surrealism, and constructivism… As befitting the subject, the catalog is a visual delight.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

Syndetics book coverGirl in a green gown : the history and mystery of the Arnolfini portrait / Carola Hicks.
The Arnolfini portrait, painted by Jan van Eyck in 1434, and now in the National Gallery, London, is one of the world’s most famous paintings. It intrigues all who see it. Scholars and public alike have puzzled over the meaning of this haunting gem of medieval art, a subtle and beautiful double portrait of a wealthy Bruges merchant and his wife.

Syndetics book coverMysterious wisdom : the life and work of Samuel Palmer / Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Mysterious Wisdom is a biography of the painter Samuel Palmer whose world of slumbering shepherds and tumbling blossoms, of mystical cornfields and bright sickle moons, has enchanted admirers since the nineteenth century. The lynchpin of the first British art movement, Palmer dreamed of creating a new rural ideal. Leading a band of fellow artists – the brotherhood of Ancients – from London to live in the village of Shoreham in Kent, he pursued his vision. If English tradition had ever encompassed the making of icons they would not have been so different from Palmer’s enraptured landscapes.

Syndetics book coverPissarro’s people / Richard R. Brettell.
“This definitive portrait of Camille Pissarro by one of the world’s foremost authorities on Impressionism and French painting reveals the deep connection between Pissarro’s humanitarian concerns and his creative output.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStealing Rembrandts : the untold stories of notorious art heists / Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg.
“Unlike the glamour and intrigue in James Bond films or literary mysteries, art theft is no “Dr. No”, as Amore (head of security, Isabella Stewart Gardner museum) and Mashberg (investigative reporter) explain artfully. In reality, most of the thieves are not wealthy masterminds seeking to add to their private collection, but penny-ante burglars and robbers whose rap sheets include home invasions, bank robberies or drug dealing. Inspired by a series of thefts of three Rembrandts and other rare gems in 1990, the authors give the inside scoop on the heists, the investigation, and even Rembrandt himself. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

And, last but not least, something blue – my pick for the whole of 2011:

Syndetics book coverMan with a blue scarf : on sitting for a portrait by Lucian Freud / Martin Gayford.
“In most works of art, we see only what the artist wants us to see. In this book the lens is reversed as the subject looks back at the artist. Gaylord is a writer, art critic and curator who spent over two years sitting for a portrait by Lucian Freud. In his diary of the experience the reader learns about the artist in his own words along with his memories of others artists from Picasso to Francis Bacon to David Hockney. The creative process is chronicled in minute detail, much more that Freud could explain, it being instinctual to him and interspersed with the commentary are marvelous anecdotes. Freud’s works and those of other artists who are mentioned in the account are reproduced in color along with photographs of Freud and many of his sitters, allowing the reader to appreciate the finished product as much as the steps taken to achieve it. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)