I am no connoisseur of paintings, yet it gives me great pleasure in wandering through art galleries. So it was natural that I found the title “1001 paintings you must see before you die” attractive.
What jumps at you from the front cover is the gory severed head of Medusa with her mouth wide open in a “silent, but dramatic scream and her shocked eyes”. But as they say, judge not a book by its cover. What follows inside is a real treat. (The Head of Medusa, Caravaggio 1598)
It is a brilliant collection of extra-ordinary paintings from all around the world. They are spread across various museums, galleries, walls, ceilings and private collections. An opportunity to see them all together is one which should not be missed.
The book is a chronologically arranged collection stretching from 14th century BC to the present. Each painting (its photo) is followed by its title, artist, year of paining, materials used, dimensions and current location. There is also a short descriptive note talking about the peculiarities of the painting, its author or both.
Irrespective of whether you are scanning through the pages in a bookshop, carelessly flipping the pages over a cup of tea or carefully studying the paintings, you would like this book if you like paintings. It contains the popular ones which you would expect like Mona Lisa, Last Supper, The Last Judgment, Sunflowers and Guernica. There are also some wall paintings and frescos like the those on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel and on the walls of Ajanta (Bodhisattva Padmapani).
The major portion of the compilation is taken by European paintings. Some more additions from other parts of the world could have made the collection more complete. Nevertheless, there is no better way of enjoying Rembrandt, Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Picasso without travelling across the globe, than read this book.
Some trivia that I gathered from this book :
- Michelangelo was reluctant to take up Sistine Chapel work since he saw himself more as a sculptor than a painter. Probably that is the reason why he concentrated on the figures than on the scenic details
- Mona Lisa was stolen from Louvre by an Italian nationalist in 1911, but was returned two years later.
- In addition to Da Vinci’s famous work, there is another brilliant painting “The Last Supper” by the Spanish painter Juan de Juanes. This was painted in 1560, about 65 yrs after its more illustrious namesake.
- In his last five years of life, Vincent van Gogh painted more than forty self portraits.
- Hans Holbein the Younger painted “The Ambassadors” in 1533. There is a very strange looking elongated object in the foreground of the paining. When viewed from the lower right hand corner of the painting, this will be seen as a skull – the reminder of death.
- Giuseppe Arcimboldo painted portraits with fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish etc. His painting summer (1573) is a portrait with fruits and vegetables.
1001 Paintings you must see before you die – Editor : Stephen Farthing – first published in 2006 in Great Britain by Cassel Illustrated – Price in India Rs 1,350