Portrait of a Nation: Men and Women Who Have Shaped America; 2nd edition
by the National Portrait Gallery
(Smithsonian Books, 2015, 312 pages)
After the unveiling of the Obama portraits I was inspired to learn more about the National Portrait Gallery and the works that are displayed there. Portrait of a Nation highlights men and women from many walks of life who have been influential in American life. This includes historical figures, presidents, performers, celebrities… Each portrait is partnered with a brief biographical blurb about the figure explaining what led them to be incorporated into the collection.
One of the main things I came away with when reading this book was a list of artists whose work I wanted to explore in greater depth and whose biographies piqued my interest. Even if you can’t make it to the National Portrait Gallery, it’s worthwhile to get a glimpse at some of the pieces in their collection.
The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw
by Mark Crilley
(Watson-Guptill, 2016, 144 pages)
Young David spies 20-something Becky sketching a tree in a park. He strikes up a conversation and soon convinces her to give him a drawing lesson. Due to David’s persistence, one lesson leads to another and then another. Becky teaches him about shading, understanding light and shadow, using negative space, checking proportions, and creating a composition. In the end they go to the art museum where David combines all of his skills to draw Bertel Thorvaldsen’s sculpture Hebe, the goddess of youth. The Drawing Lesson is a fun and effective way through a visual story to help people develop the skills to see things as an artist does and draw what they see.
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
(Picador, 2016, 315 pages)
I got so completely immersed in this book that I didn’t want it to end. Laing could have written hundreds more pages and I happily would have read them all.
Using the lens of loneliness Laing explores various artists whose work speaks to the feeling of being alone. She came to reflect on the connection between art and loneliness while she was living alone and lonely in New York City. Each chapter is essentially a biographic essay about a specific artist (Warhol, Wojnarowicz, Hopper…) that leaves you with an understanding of them and their work, but also has you poised to try and learn more. It’s no surprise this book was chosen as a 2016 best book of the year by a number of different publication, not to mention being a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for criticism.
I’ll certainly be going back and reading Laing’s other pieces. I loved getting so wrapped up in her work.
Sunday Sketching by Christoph Niemann
(Harry N. Abrams, 2016, 272 pages)
I follow Niemann on Instagram and didn’t realize how familiar I was with his work until I noticed how frequently his art appears on the cover of The New Yorker. There’s a lot of humor in his work and it makes me happy. In addition to being a collection of some of his pieces, Sunday Sketching also talks about how Niemann tackles the creative process. It was an interesting and quick read that only left me wanting to actually purchase the book for my collection and acquire his art for my walls.
This is a fun read for people who appreciate art/illustration and want insight into how this particular artist approaches life as a creative.
And for fun, here’s a taste of his Niemann’s artwork (all pulled from his website: http://www.christophniemann.com). You should also check out “The Gummi Bear Chronicles” on the New York Times’s Abstract Sunday blog – just because I like it ;).
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
(Little, Brown and Co., 2013, 775 pages)
Excellent story. Chaos, fate, beauty.
Munch by Steffen Kverneland; translated by Francesca M. Nichols
(SelfMadeHero, 2016, 280 pages)
Excellent research; event better artwork.
Peacock and Vine: On William Morris and Mariano Fortuny by A. S. Byatt
(Knopf, 2016, 192 pages)
Masterful writer, connecting two aesthetics.
Garth Williams, American Illustrator: A Life
by Elizabeth K. Wallace and James D. Wallace
(Beaufort Books, 2016, 250 pages)
Garth Williams, American Illustrator: A Life written by Elizabeth K. Wallace and James D. Wallace is a biography of the famous children’s book illustrator, Garth Williams. Garth Williams was born in New York City in 1912, but moved to England with his mother during his school years. His father was an artist, but was not around during most of his younger years. Garth Williams is an interesting man. Over the course of his life he had 4 wives, 6 children, and moved several times with his final stop being Guanajuato, Mexico.
At the beginning of his career, Garth Williams thought that he would illustrate children’s books to earn enough income to become a serious artist. Those children’s book illustrations not only provided an income, but made him internationally famous. Williams illustrated such famous classics as Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Cricket in Times Square, and The Little House on the Prairie series.
At the beginning of the book, the authors explain that it would be difficult to cover Williams’ life in chronological order. The book does some jumping back and forth and is a little repetitious. I found it a little distracting. However, the life and works of Garth Williams is interesting and worth a read.
A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750 by Margaret R. Miles
(University of California Press, 2008, 196 pages)
This is an interdisciplinary study of early modern European depictions of the breast. Miles charts the changing contexts of these images from their place in religious art to representations of the breast in medical and pornographic literature of the early modern era. Miles tells a story about the secularization of Europe through a historical and theological study of religious, anatomical, and erotic images. This book should be helpful to those with interests in art history or theology.
Sense and Spirituality: The Arts and Spiritual Formation by James McCullough
(Cascade Books, 2015, 146 pages)
This book is an exploration of the way that the arts can play a part in spiritual formation. McCullough uses diverse examples of modern and contemporary art, including the poetry of T. S. Eliot, the paintings of Makoto Fujimura, and the compositions of James MacMillan. If you’re interested in theology and aesthetics, this is a great book to pick up.