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Picture This: Artists and Their Masterpieces

It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. So if you can’t make the trip to the museum to see the pictures, then check out these books and learn about famous painters, photographers, and great works of art. Printer Friendly Version


The Red Rose Girls: an Uncommon Story of Art and Love

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Carter, Alice(2000)
The Red Rose Girls: an Uncommon Story of Art and Love

The turn of the 20th century offered few professional career opportunities for women, especially in the artistic arena. In the early 1890s three talented woman banded together with a forth to form a `family` and create an environment in which creative ideas could cross-polianate and careers blossom. Artists Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley captivated Philadelphia society with their brilliant careers, charming english garden hospitality and unconventional lifestyle. Readers will enjoy the combination of biographical sketches, rich photographics and examples of all three artists work delightfully arranged throughout the book.

Reviewed by Helene B., Main Library

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N.C. Wyeth: A Biography

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Michaelis, David(1998)
N.C. Wyeth: A Biography

Newell Convers Wyeth is well known as the illustrator of a shelf-full of classic books, and as the patriarch of an artistic brood, the most famous of who is Andrew Wyeth. The artist produced illustrations for such classics as The Yearling, The Last of the Mohicans and Treasure Island. For many readers his illustrations are the definitive versions of these characters. In N.C. Wyeth the author examines both the artist's life and work. In spite of his financial and popular success, Wyeth still felt he was a failure as an artist and also suffered from debilitating bouts of depression. In spite of his real or imagined failings, N.C. Wyeth produced a body of work that has stood the test of time. The reader is left with an appreciation of his timeless illustrations - with a vibrant New England sun illuminating the adventures of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver.

Reviewed by Tom V., Main Library

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Diego Rivera

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Hamill, Pete(1999)
Diego Rivera

More than any artist, Diego Rivera has shown Mexico to the world. Often seen through the fog of its Spanish colonial past or the shadow of the giant to the north, Mexico still struggles with feelings of inferiority. For so long Mexico looked to Europe for models of identity. Rivera was one of the artists who turned his eye, and that of the world, towards his own heritage. His work has presented Mexico’s indigenous beauty to the world, and indeed to Mexico herself. This lively and beautifully illustrated volume presents Rivera the man and his work, revealing him as a very flawed man, but one of the most important artists of the 20th century.

Reviewed by Mark B., Main Library

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Salvador Dali and the Surrealists: Their Lives and Ideas: 21 Activities

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Ross, Michael Elsohn(2003)
Salvador Dali and the Surrealists: Their Lives and Ideas: 21 Activities
Young Adult

Do you normally think of art as boring, predictable and dull? Then you probably have never come across the works of the artist Salvador Dali, a man that is none of the above...not boring, not predictable, definitely not dull and many would even say not even normal! He is the man that became one of the most well known Surrealist painters of the Twentieth Century. What is Surrealism you might ask? It is an artistic movement that attempts to express the subconscious by fantastic imagery and dreamlike images. This book, with its vivid reproductions and photos, describes the life of Dali and how he delved into his subconscious for creativity. It includes 21 activities to help you do the same. Even if you don’t like art, you will be fascinated by the man that has inspired musicians, filmmakers and poets.

Reviewed by Michelle F., Hickory Grove Branch

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Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs

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Adams, Ansel(2007)
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Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs

No one has visually captured the rugged beauty of North America like Ansel Adams. In Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, the reader takes both a chronological and comprehensive journey through the life's work of this American visionary. Many places of natural beauty were photographed repeatedly by Adams over six decades, from childhood photos of Half Dome in 1916 to classic Ansel Adams icons, like "Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 1960." Adams was a technical giant, as well as an intuitive artist. Notes are included on selected images, providing insights into mystical moments of light and shadow, like the image captured by just one 8x10 negative, the famous "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941". Both meditative and mesmerizing, this compilation of Adam's photographs is the largest ever published.

Reviewed by Lydia T., Main Library

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Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft

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Houpt, Simon(2006)
Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft

Readers who are interested in art, history, true crime, or any combination of the three will like what Museum of the Missing has to offer. Simon Houpt chronicles the history and different types of art theft throughout the years. The book also provides a background of recovery efforts of stolen art and advancements that are being made in crime prevention. The best part of this book is that the pages are interspersed with excellent color photos of the actual paintings, in order to truly appreciate what you are reading about. This book is a great find for art buffs, yet is also readable enough to be enjoyed by beginners hoping to learn about the world of art.

Reviewed by Sandra S., North County Regional

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Lives of the Artists

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Tomkins, Calvin(2008)
Lives of the Artists

Creating art in the 21st century is both harder and easier claims Calvin Tomkins, author and art critic for The New Yorker. Obstacles faced by today’s artists include unlimited freedom of style or subject and constant pressure to succeed. Nor do society’s obsessions with media and money ease the burden to create something original. In his book, Tomkins profiles ten admired and prolific contemporary artists, ranging from painters to filmmakers. He feels that these ten artists are uniquely connected through the various ways they deal with the challenge of living. Tomkins successfully explores this connection by looking past the art and into each life, proving his belief that “if the work is interesting, the life probably is too.”

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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The Lost Painting

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Harr, Jonathan(2005)
The Lost Painting

A page turning thriller, The Lost Painting is a dramatic and factual story! Two young art history interns working in a small Italian village find information in ancient family records that, eventually, lead to the rediscovery of a Caravaggio masterpiece. A dark Baroque revolutionary, Caravaggio's life was one of murder, imprisonment, narrow escapes, and various other acts of violent mayhem. His 'Taking of Christ' shows the lantern lit betrayal of Christ, by Judas' kiss. Later editions of this book cast doubt as to which version of this painting might be genuine, but this doesn't spoil a fantastic true tale.

Reviewed by Alex C., Morrison Regional

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Batman: Hush Unwrapped

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Loeb, Jeph(2011)
Batman: Hush Unwrapped

The thrill of revisiting a good visual story can be immensely heighted by tweaking its presentation and this graphic novel makes that leap. The entire, first-time `Batman/Hush` series is reprinted here but without colored pages to show the original pencil work of artist Jim Lee in its fuller glory. The black and white pages spike up the dramatic storytelling while splashes of color, in mainly sound effects, punch up the action more. The story is wonderfully told with Batman`s close allies, deadly villains, and a childhood friendship gone wrong amidst an unlikely romance for the always cautious hero. Reading this book, you can enjoy it even more by training your eyes to adjust - or fill in - the details of the finely crafted world by cartoonist Lee.

Reviewed by Lawrence T., South County Regional

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What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art

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Gompertz, Will(2012)
What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art

What are you looking at? It is good question for the infrequent gallery visitor or anyone interested in learning more about modern art. Gompertz takes us through all the various isms: from Fauvism and Cubism (both of which originated as insults), Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art. It includes artists such as Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Miro, Pollock, Warhol and many more. The two dozen color plates are well chosen. They are the works that defined new schools of art. Numerous other works are included within the text in black and white. This well-constructed, witty, and very thoughtful book is much like a walk through a fine art museum, alternating between the desire to take everything in immediately and the need to pause and reflect.

Reviewed by Rita L., Independence Regional

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Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Hoving, Thomas(1993)
Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thomas Hoving’s charm and wit shine right through the pages of his memoir about being the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hoving, one of the most controversial directors of the Met, takes the reader on a journey of all the behind the scenes activities necessary to keep one of the public’s most cherished institutions up and running. Throughout his descriptions of month long buying trips and schmoozing with potential donors, the reader will be struck by Hoving’s intimate hold-nothing-back tone and his levity in the face of scandal. Overall, Hoving’s memoir makes for a great read either for the studied art critic or for anyone looking for a little scandal and a laugh.

Reviewed by Sarah F., Matthews Branch

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