Diego Velazquez: 1599-1660, The Face of Spain (Basic Art) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2000/10
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Acclaimed for its blending of realism with atmosphere, and for its deeply sensitive appreciation of character, the work of Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez represents the undeniable pinnacle of the golden age of Spanish painting. Born in Seville but of Portuguese origin, he became court painter to Philip IV in 1623. A steady worker, using primarily sombre low-toned colouring, he met Rubens in 1628, and soon after made a first trip to Italy. The pictures painted there reveal a growing interest in both colour range and in the male nude. He only returned to Italy once again in the late 1640s, where he painted his famous portrait of Pope Innocent X and his only female nude, the "Rokeby Venus". But his greatness lies perhaps in his empathetic studies of such characters as the dwarf playmates of the royal children. The weathering of the skin, rags and mortality, as well as the ageing face of the despondent monarch increasingly preoccupied him in later years. The power, insight and brilliant technique of these paintings were to prove profoundly influential on such later artists as Manet, Delacroix, Picasso and Bacon.
It provides a decent biography of the artist, from his birth to death, as well as coverage of his most important paintings. In addition, the paintings included are just awesome for a book in the $10-$15 price range. Not up to the par of museum books in the $100 price range but not surpassed in the $10-$15 price range (or even in the $30 or so range for that matter). The colors are vivid and there are numerous close ups of paintings showing impressive detail. Plus the author, Dr. Norbert Wolf, a professor of art history, does a very good job at describing each painting in terms of subject matter, context, etc.
The book does have a few minor problems though. Unlike some of the better books in the “Basic Art” series, the artist’s technique is not examined (thought development of style over the course of the artist’s life is). In the “Basic Art” books covering Watteau, for example, there is a discussion of his long brushstrokes containing much paint and in the one on Vermeer there is a discussion of that artist’s use of the camera obscura. Nothing like that in this book on Velazquez though. In addition, there are small number of painting, mostly of other artists of the time, that may have inspired or influenced Velazquez. These are too small in this reviewer’s opinion albeit, due to space limitations, the tradeoff between quality and their ability to compare and contrast with Velazquez’s work is acceptable.
On the flap of the book, as in all books of the “Basic Art” series, there is a quote by another artist on the art work of the particular artist being covered that always hits the nail on the head with respect to summing up the artist’s work. In this particular book that quote is, by Picasso, “There you have him, the true painter of reality”. This book does a very good job at bringing this quote to life.