Friday, March 23, 2012

Art Books

I remember when I used to comb through new and used art bookstores looking for anything I could find on 19th century painters or Golden Age illustrators.

Here's a sketch from about 1985 of my wife Jeanette reading to me from a book on John William Waterhouse.

Before computers and the internet, finding a good art book was like uncovering a vein of gold. In those days, you couldn't find much on Bouguereau, Meissonier, Gerome, or Waterhouse. Sargent was just beginning to come into the light. It seemed worth spending $50 for a book, even if it had only two or three good color reproductions. I would stick yellow tags on the best pages, with the name of the artist written in small letters so I could find them again.

The casual availability of images now is both a blessing and a curse. It makes me treasure each image a little less, perhaps because I haven't spent so much effort on the hunt. Still, I'm grateful to be able to find so many digital images in cyberspace. But I have faith that there's much more to be discovered. The internet may be a million miles wide, but it's only an inch deep when it comes to some artists who have yet to arrive from obscurity.

15 comments:

Nick said...

I agree that it can be a curse. The internet is very good at supplying frissons, but then due to the ease of finding a piece of information I don't delve into an area of study further than I could.
It's why I treat the internet more as a tool to track down real, physical books which I know I can spend more time pouring through.

etc, etc said...

I immediately recognized Ratcliff's "Sargent" monograph!

There is still a lot of great art and many great artists that are yet obscure to the internet (and even to book publishers). And, it seems to be a trend in technology that what is initially free eventually becomes pay-per-view (see ARC website), so I'm not throwing out my embarrassingly large collection of artist monographs just yet.

Matthew Meyer said...

It all depends on what you're looking for. Last year I wrestled with myself before finally dropping $400 on a collection of Kawase Hasui's prints... absolutely worth every penny and more, but still painful to shell out. I wish they had been available cheaper.

Drazen said...

I still like combing through bookstores for surprises especially from the ones who are hold outs on the internet:-) tho they are few here. Artists and writers I'd never have have heard from other countries of I know of thanks to the internet so its nice there work has travelled farther then they imagined and more will continue to be unearthed.

Joe Winkler said...

I discovered you through the internet, so I' thankful for THAT.

Nick said...

Woops! Meant 'poring'.

J. Bustamante said...

Finding images online isn't a problem. Finding HIGH QUALITY images is a real struggle though when you're looking for a specific artist or piece. This is why books still have great value.

J. Bustamante said...

Finding images online isn't a problem. Finding HIGH QUALITY images is a real struggle though when you're looking for a specific artist or piece. This is why books still have great value.

casey sattler said...

At the same time the internet is vague on great obscure art masters, it lets us discover great NEW masters; people delving into this new electronic medium with fantastic enthusiasm. One wonders what some of the great old timers would do with an electronic pad or an iPhone...

Anonymous said...

I think if you grew up that way the magic will never fade. I've been working as a video game artist for about twelve years now and have quickly become one of the only guys with stacks of sticky note riddled books all over his desk and shelves. The problem I've seen with generic internet results is you get generic art. The younger guys I refer to as "google artists" because they just take the first page of search results and make their interpretation. When you search only for what you are trying to make you don't accidentally discover much. They'll see what happens when the web goes down, they'll all see! muahahahah :)

Anonymous said...

I spend a lot of my free time trawling through Internet links trying to self educate and be inspired. Living in the UK the art is very different, so access to the wonderful art around the World is liberating and exciting. I love your blog, a little piece of inspiration every day. I still spend a fortune on books but now I can access a Worldwide bookstore 24/7.

Anonymous said...

I think we could benefit by studying the images and paintings we have access to with greater care, rather continually downloading literally hundred of images one can get with a just a few searches.

Same goes for drawing books -how many of us always buy the 'hot' new drawing book, but still haven't read all the ones we have??

william said...

I have a bit of a passion for collecting educational art books, (I think I have mentioned at some point before about my copies of "Figure Drawing for all it's Worth, and "Creative Illustration" by Andrew Loomis). I love the "Dynamic" Series by Burne Hogarth, he is an especially popular study by many top tier comic artists (Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, and even John Byrne to name a few). Oh yea, and there is a pretty decent book called Color and light out there too, can't for the life of me remember the artist. ;)

Dave said...

About reading a great art book. And in the 40's the color was so bad, one had to count on a good black and white print and guess at the color. If you were lucky you saw the original in an exhibit or a museum -----O and then remember the color all the way home. Well it was good for you, and the best thing was that you really thought that this was 'state of the art,' who would know that what we have today was not a dream. It can only get better.

Pontenigra said...

Hi, this is an old lurker speaking! I have been reading this blog for ages, and I love it, just as I love your books.
This post made me comment, because I still remember the excitement I used to get from the art books I found in my grandmother's bedroom. I think it is there where my love for art was born. There was something deeply mystical and monumental about those faded prints of Tizian and Rubens and Monet, even though half of them were black and white. Now that I can spend hours browsing high resolution pictures on the internet, my excitement has turned into rapture. Still, there is nothing like seeing the real painting in a gallery. One of my big wishes is to go and visit all galleries that have Vermeer - that would likely push me over the edge for good.
By the way, I have recently started a blog that is all about sharing love for art. If any of you who are reading this ever feels like contributing, you are very welcome, just let me know! It's here: artgush.tumblr.com. Ah, now it sounds like I am only self-promoting here.
Anyway, thanks for writing this blog, Mr. Gurney, please keep going!
Your faithful reader
Pontenigra