Fantastic Art (Basic Art) (英語) ペーパーバック – Illustrated, 2005/4/30
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Walter Schurian studied psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Based in Vienna, he has been professor of psychology at Westfallsche Wilheims-Universitat in Munster since 1973 and is the author and editor of numerous publications focusing mainly on Austrian contemporary art.
In addition to the lackluster essay, Schurian's analyses of individual works are painfully trite and monotonous. To Schurian, analysis amounts to nothing more than florid descriptive paragraphs. He prefers to excessively describe what figurative elements are depicted rather than evaluate the crux of the work and why it is special. He uses too many words to tell you what any layman observer could see. I found myself grumbling, "Yes, thank you, I can see that the sky is blue and there is a figure in the painting." When he does supply an interpretation, it is laced with purple prose. He just can't seem to deliver candid insights, discussion of technique, or explain why the work is truly significant. At least there are some facts about the artists, but it's not hard to write a biographical sketch. His rhetoric when arguing why some works by Balthus, Tubke, and Chapman are fantastic is not convincing either.
That brings me to another problem with this monograph. Schurian's selection of art is inconsistent and dubious. He gets it right with Bocklin, but strays with Botero; Magritte makes sense, but not Doig. Preference is given to 20th century works, many of which are not major or influential examples of fantastic art, but peripheral at best. How Schurian can seriously include a work by Cattelan while ignoring anything from the 15th-17th centuries is inexcusable (no Bosch, Durer, or Brueghel). I think Schurian chose his favorite works of fantastic art rather than the works that best represent it. Consider for example that there is a spot for Wyeth, but not Arcimboldo. Or that the Chapman brothers' parody of a Goya etching gets a full spread instead of Goya's original work, or any other Goya for that matter. A marginal work by Sidney Nolan receives attention while Piranesi's landmark prison etchings are ignored. I could go on, citing the conspicuous absence of Blake, Fuseli, Dore or even Escher, but my point has been made.
Bottom line: This is neither an informative book on fantastic art nor an enjoyable read. It's an album of uneven pictures chosen by dint of the author's favoritism. If the writing were not so dull and the selection of plates justified, I might give this the benefit of the doubt, as there are many lesser known artists here. But I cannot recommend this as a worthy survey of fantastic art. If you want to see iconic and noteworthy fantastic images, you're better off reading other books in the Taschen series like Romanticism (Taschen Basic Genre Series),Symbolism (Basic Genre) or Surrealism (Basic Art), all authored by superior writers.