Pioneers of art: 10 new books on artistic beginnings

For this selection of new art books we decided to take a look at beginnings, from prehistoric evidence of creativity and expression, to the early renaissance, right through to the more recent emergence of artistic collaboration or co-art. Whether it’s fashion illustration, the story of heritage paints and pigments, or learning to draw manga, you might find yourself beginning a new creative journey.

Syndetics book coverThe first artists : in search of the world’s oldest art / Michel Lorblanchet and Paul Bahn
“Where is the world’s very first art located? When, and why, did people begin experimenting with different materials, forms, and colors? Prehistorians have long been asking these questions, but only recently have they been able to piece together the first chapter in the story of art. This book is the first to assess the discovery, history, and significance of these varied forms of art.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCo-art : artists on creative collaboration / Ellen Mara De Wachter.
“Art history is traditionally presented as the individual’s struggle for self-expression, yet over the past fifty years, the number of artists working collaboratively has grown exponentially. Co-Art: Artists on Creative Collaboration, explores this phenomenon through conversations with twenty-five leading art-world pairs and groups, who offer insight that is relevant beyond the art world, making this book vital for all who seek to work creatively and effectively with others.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArtist’s drawing techniques / senior editor, Georgina Palffy.
“Try your hand at drawing and bring out your inner artist as you discover your own unique style. Create your own masterpieces with projects for both beginners and experienced artists. A practical guide to learning how to draw with pencils, charcoal, pens, and pastels, Artist’s Drawing Techniques helps you develop skills in every medium, perfect for the beginner picking up a new hobby or the experienced artist who wants to expand your horizons.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover100 years of fashion illustration / Cally Blackman.
“A visual feast of 400 dazzling images, a comprehensive survey of a genre over the last century and offering an overview of the development of fashion, as seen through the eyes of the greatest illustrators of the day. Early in the century, fashion illustration reflected new, liberating currents in art and culture, while the postwar period saw inspiration from the great Parisian couturiers. After the dominance of the celebrity fashion photographer in the 60s, a new generation of illustrators emerged, embracing the medium of the computer, while many returned to more traditional techniques.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe collector of lives : Giorgio Vasari and the invention of art / Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney.
“Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), an advisor to kings and pontiffs and a confidant to Titian, Donatello, and more, Vasari enjoyed an exhilarating career amid the thrilling culture of Italy. A narrative of intrigue, scandal, and colorful artistic rivalry, this vivid biography shows the great works of western art taking shape under Vasari’s keen eye–and reveals how one Renaissance scholar completely redefined how we look at art.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHokusai : beyond the great wave / edited by Timothy Clark.
“Publications have hitherto presented Hokusai’s long and illustrious career as a chronological sequence. This book takes a fresh approach based on innovative scholarship: thematic groupings of works are related to the major spiritual and artistic quests of Hokusai’s life. This collection of Hokusai’s works draws on the finest to be found in Japan and around the world, making this the most important publication for years on Hokusai, and a uniquely valuable overview of the artist’s late career.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to draw manga in simple steps / Yishan Li.
“Learn how to draw boys, girls and creatures (ordinary and extraordinary) in the manga style, using this fun and simple step-by-step book. Starting with basic shapes, professional comic artist Yishan Li shows how easy it is to turn circles, rectangles, squares and ovals into teens, kids, witches, wizards, monsters, animals and much more. If you have always wanted to draw manga, but weren’t sure how to begin, this book will help kick-start your comic-drawing journey. Even experienced artists will be inspired by Yishan’s impressive mix of figures and foes.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe anatomy of colour : the story of heritage paints and pigments / Patrick Baty.
The Anatomy of Colour is the definitive book on the use of colour and paint in interior decoration over a 300-year period. Drawing on his huge specialist archive, historian and paint expert Patrick Baty traces the evolution of pigments and paint colours together with colour systems and standards, and examines their impact on the colour palettes used in interiors from 1650 to 1960.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPipilotti Rist : Pixel Forest / edited by Massimiliano Gioni and Margot Norton.
“A pioneer of experimental video art, Pipilotti Rist is celebrated for her immersive, seductive works that bridge the spaces between fine art and entertainment. Through saturated colours, sensuous imagery, and playful eroticism, Rist’s art, which ranges from kaleidoscopic video environments to a chandelier of tie-dyed underwear, absorbs viewers in a hyperfeminine aesthetic at odds with deeper themes of pain and innocence.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTraces of Vermeer / Jane Jelley.
“Johannes Vermeer’s luminous paintings are loved and admired around the world, yet we do not understand how they were made. We see sunlit spaces; the glimmer of satin, silver, and linen; we see the softness of a hand on a lute string or letter. We might hope for some answers from the experts, but they are confounded too. Jane Jelley has taken a new path in this detective story. A painter herself, she has worked with the materials of his time and shows us how painters made their pictures layer by layer, exploring how Vermeer could have used a lens in the creation of his masterpieces. The clues were there all along. After all this time, now we can unlock the studio door, and catch a glimpse of Vermeer inside, painting light.” (Syndetics summary)

Art Recent Picks for February 2014

For February, a festival of fabulous new art books:-

Syndetics book coverContemporary art in the United Kingdom / [edited by Black Dog Publishing ; contributors, Nicolas Bourriaud … [et al.]].
“The fifth title in Black Dog Publishing’s Artworld series, Contemporary Art in the United Kingdom showcases the wealth of contemporary art being produced in the United Kingdom today. Diverse in content and style, Contemporary Art in the United Kingdom features work from artists including, Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin, Fiona Banner, Bob and Roberta Smith, Chris Ofili and Mark Quinn, alongside the work of emerging British artists today. Exploring the phenomenon of the YBA, looking at pre and post-YBA; alongside the growing influence of art fairs such as Frieze and prizes such as the Turner Prize; Contemporary Art in the United Kingdom provides a comprehensive a complexion of the contemporary art scene from all four corners of the British Isles.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverNature morte : contemporary artists reinvigorate the still-life tradition / Michael Petry.
“Current twists on the still life reflect the tradition’s ongoing obsession with death in this survey featuring the work of John Currin, Renata Hegyi, Gabriel Orozco, Cy Twombly, and many others. For Petry (Installation Art in the New Millennium), director of London’s Museum of Contemporary Art, these images are considered nature morte (“dead nature”), as exemplified by the volume’s amusing lenticular cover of an exploding floral arrangement. After discussing the “mortal edge” present in the past five centuries of the still life, Petry traces broad historical changes alongside artistic developments, with selected contemporary works organized into chapters dedicated to “Flora,” “Food,” “House and Home,” “Fauna,” and “Death.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEl Greco : life and work – a new history / Fernando Marías; [translated from the Spanish by Paul Edson and Sander Berg].
“Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known to us as El Greco, was one of the seminal figures of the Spanish Golden Age. This magnificent volume, published to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the artist’s death, features superb new photographs of recently cleaned and restored paintings, revealing hitherto unknown facets of his art. He was a painter not only of religious subjects but also of idiosyncratic portraits executed in his own uniquely dramatic and expressionistic style.” (abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWalk the line : the art of drawing / Marc Valli & Ana Ibarra.
“Drawing has always been a fundamental skill and good drawing skills allowed artists to grasp the reality around them. At the turn of the millennium, however, the general impression was that with the wide availability of computers, scanners, digital cameras and image software, drawing would dwindle into a marginal activity. In fact, the opposite happened: the enthusiasm for digital imagery died down and the ability to draw has become a treasured skill. In the art world, attitudes to drawing have also changed. Drawing became a way of making a statement as an artist, of showing masterly skill something that up to then had been most commonly associated with painting. After centuries in the shadow of its more illustrious fine art relatives, drawing started to be appreciated for its own sake, as an art discipline, an end in itself, an art form.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverQueen: art & image
“This publication, in association with the National Portrait Gallery in London, follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II documented in photographs and portraits by some of the most important 20th century artists.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverArt of D*Face: one man and his dog
“D*Face has been a leading figure in urban art for well over a decade. A contemporary of Banksy, he was at the forefront of the urban art movement, and has had a constant presence throughout its meteoric rise into popular culture. This long-awaited monograph shows the development of his career as an artist to date, encompassing his continuing street work, and the path that led him from the early beginnings of the street art genre to multiple sell-out solo exhibitions around the world. Containing previously unseen images of his working process and studio, as well as firsthand anecdotes, and the stories behind his extraordinary work, the book provides an insider’s view of one of Britain’s most important urban artists.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Art Recent Picks

Six wonderful new art books including: Street art, Chinese art, art scandals, and Breakfast with Lucian [Freud].

Syndetics book coverThe museum of scandals : art that shocked the world / Éléa Baucheron, Diane Routex.
“Art scandals are as old as art itself. Centuries ago, the liberal representation of naked flesh and all-too-obvious hints at political injustice broke many a taboo. In modern and contemporary art, too, provocative actions regularly attract attention. In this stunning book Éléa Baucheron and Diane Routex have collected the most outrageous scandals of art history from the Middle Ages to the present day, from Michelangelo to Ai Weiwei.” (Cover)

Syndetics book coverThe Chinese art book / contributors, Colin Mackenzie, Keith Pratt, Jeffrey Moser, Katie Hill.
“Taking on a dauntingly vast topic, this book attempts to survey discrete images and historical contexts from the long history of Chinese art while maintaining threads of cohesion. China is widely considered the oldest extant civilization, and the visual arts that emerged from Chinese cultures remained intricately entwined with their attendant politics, spiritualties, and material realities. Rather than organize this immense visual history along chronology or medium, the authors present the generously reproduced images in suggestive pairings on opposing pages, each work receiving its own page and a brief contextualization… The necessary concision of the prose, the lavish beauty of the images, and the accompanying timelines of Chinese and world history all aid in creating a pleasurable, heuristic read, worth the distraction regardless of the reader’s familiarity with calligraphic techniques or dynastic histories.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPainted on 21st street : Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959 / curated by John Elderfield ; in cooperation with the Estate of Helen Frankenthaler.
“Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) came to New York City in 1949 at age 21 and created many of her most original paintings in the 1950s, in a studio on East 21st Street. This handsome book includes many superb reproductions of her paintings from the period and follows Gagosian Gallery’s spring 2013 exhibition of her ’50s work-the first time these paintings had been shown together in more than 40 years. An informative and thoughtful essay by Elderfield, chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, introduces the collection, convincingly arguing that it’s crucial to go beyond painter Morris Louis’s description of Frankenthaler as “a bridge between Pollock and what was possible”; we must instead view her work as “its own destination,” he writes” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe art of drawing : British masters and methods since 1600 / Susan Owens.
“This beautiful book reveals works from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s rich collection of drawings ranging from the early 17th century right up to the present day. Reproducing, often for the first time, works by foremost British artists, this book offers fresh insights into the wide range of ways in which these artists have used drawing to think on paper, build up ideas, and make finished exhibition pieces. Including examples from the greatest masters—William Blake, Thomas Rowlandson, John Constable, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Paul Nash, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, John Piper, Grayson Perry, and others—author Susan Owens discusses the art and craft of drawing, materials, and techniques, and why artists chose them.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverBreakfast with Lucian : a portrait of the artist / Geordie Greig.
“For ten years Geordie Greig was among a very small group of friends who regularly met Lucian Freud for breakfast at Clarke’s restaurant on Kensington Church Street. Over tea and the morning papers, Freud would recount stories of his past and discuss art. It was, in effect, Freud’s private salon. In this kaleidoscopic memoir, Greig remembers Freud’s stories: of death threats; escaping from Nazi Germany; falling out with his brother Clement; loathing his mother; painting David Hockney; sleeping with horses; escaping the Krays; painting the Queen; his controversial role as a father; and why Velazquez was the greatest painter. It is revelatory about his art, his lovers, his children, his enemies and his love of gambling.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe world atlas of street art and graffiti / Rafael Schacter ; foreword by John Fekner.
“Since its genesis on the East Coast of the United States in the late 1960s, street art has travelled to nearly every corner of the globe, morphing into highly ornate and vibrant new styles. From Steve Powers (Espo) in New York to Kid Zoom in Australia, taking in Banksy’s London, Paris as transfigured by Honet and OX, and the gargantuan murals of the Brazilian twins ‘Os Gêmeos’, The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti is the first truly geographical history of the form. Featuring specially commissioned works from major graffiti and street art practitioners, The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti offers the reader an insider’s view of the urban landscape as the artists themselves experience it. This beautifully illustrated book, produced with the help of many of the artists it features, dispels the idea of such art as a thoughtless defacement of pristine surfaces, and instead celebrates it as a contemporary and highly creative inscription upon the skin of the built environment.” (adapted from amazon.com description)