Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: Shishkin Books

There's a new book on Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898) that offers a helpful introduction for the new fan or the confirmed collector of the great Russian realist who specialized in forest scenes.

The new book is the one on the right. It's in the series of inexpensive books (under $15) in English on Russian realists that have been coming out recently. A similar book in the same series on Ilya Repin that came out in 2011 is now out of print and costs well over $60, and the one on Valentin Serov is also out of print and costs over $100. So people have been snapping these up, and I'm sure the Shishkin book will be no exception.

The new book is hardcover, 200 pages, and about 9x12 inches. It has a short biography and overview of Shishkin's place in Russian art, but it's mostly illustrations. There's a sampling of his pen-and-ink work, his etchings, and his pencil studies, as well as a good representation of his oil paintings and studies. But I found that the colors tended to be too contrasty and warm, with the shadows going to black.

A 1996 book called Shishkin (Great Painters) (shown in the middle of the photo above) is comparable in scope and coverage. It's a little larger, about 9.5 x 13 inches. The color in the reproductions is a little better, but some paintings are reproduced smaller than they need to be.

The best book in my opinion is the large, thick 1981 book, printed in the old Soviet Union, and called Shishkin Album. It's shown on the left in the photo above. You can still get this one in its paperback form as a used book, but it's rather expensive. The book is about 254 pages long, and the reproductions are quite good, with many of Shishkin's plein air studies.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. If someone were trying to create a personal library of art books of landscape painters books on whom would you recommend? Would Shishkin be one of them?

Also, I think you and your friends you go out painting with should get together and do a book of your plein air paintings and stuff from your sketchbooks. I love it when you do videos out on location painting things, and it'd be great to have a book of that stuff.

Bill Marshall said...

One of my all time favorite realist artists, but I am hesitant to buy any book of mediocre prints of his work when the internet has such a great resource of high resolution images.
Still, if a HIGH quality book of prints of his work was published in the $40-$60.00 range I'd scoop it up in a heartbeat. Makes me wonder why publishers just keep poking at such a great artist instead of going the extra step.


Vladimir Venkov said...

I bought this book few weeks ago. The quality is really good I think but James is right - the images are a bit contrasty and warm.

Jean At Home said...

Thanks, James, for bringing these books to our attention. I went looking for the Shiskin Album that you recommended and you're right, it's very pricey. I did find a Kindle version of a book of images of his for 2.99:

It doesn't work well on a B&W Kindle screen, but I have the Kindle Reader on my PC and the images look pretty good there.

XaviC said...

I bought the last book published, most of the reason was the relation between price and quantity of pages and images. But I got really disappointed about the quality of the reproductions of the paintings. I've been comparing the images in the book to images taken from the actual paintings and they change too much, values are lost, green turn to yellows direct to black,..., all burned, black is all over the book, so I cannot recommend it at all if you are interested in having a good Ivan Shishkin catalog on your library.