Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: The Paintings in the Louvre by Lawrence Gowing

Synopsis: Lawrence Gowing, the most vivid writer on art to have lived in this century, selected more than 800 European masterpieces for inclusion in this, the most lavish and comprehensive volume ever published on the greatest collection of paintings in the world - the Louvre (from the back of the book)

Review: I picked this up for a $1 at a book sale many moons ago. I wanted it because it's unlikely I will ever get to Paris to see this monumental museum. Perhaps, I should have taken a better look at the book before picking it for that purpose. I wanted a book that would take me through the museum, exploring painted art from antiquity to the present day. This was not that book.
The book starts with a brief history of the Louvre buildings, how they came to be and why they were build. It then gives a concise history of the collections, how it was acquired etc. Then, it starts in the 1300s, and moves throught the 1850s, with exquisite photographs of the paintings and detailed explanations of the artist, style, history and acquisition.
The reason I am disappointed in this book was because the author only included paitings and artists from France, Italy and occasionaly, the Netherlands. Nothing from the Far East, the Americas, or Russia. I know there aren't that many from these places, but there ae some and they should have been included. Also, why did he stop at 1850? He missed several important artistic movements!
My other issue is his complete lack of female artist. Other than one painting by Marie-Guillemine_Benoist and  scant mention of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (considered by many to be the most important female painter in the 1700s), he has NO women artist. I know there aren't many, but several (i.e. Vigée Le Brun) are rather important - too important to be left out!
If you are looking for a book on the paintings in the Louvre from European painters from 1300-1850, this is the perfect book for you. Gowing did an excellent job of presenting the works he chose, albeit with a verbose flourish of words. I just think he did a crap job of choosing works. With the entire Louvre to chose from, he should have spread out more, including less works from France and Italy, and more from other parts of the world.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-55670-007-5
Date Finished: 1-10-2014
Pages: 687

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