Galleries - December 2013

The Paintings That Revolutionized Art . Ed Claudia Stäuble. 288pp, 175 col ills, Prestelhbk £22.50 ‘The Paintings That Revolutionized Art’; if you have trouble throwing newspapers away as you get drawn into reading some snippet then this book is for you. The title might invite a little scepticism among the informed but they like the uninformed will almost certainly find themselves drawn into first a look and then a read of the page the book falls open at. Whether the paintings did ‘revolutionise’ art is arguable but the one hundred selected by the Prestel ‘editorial team’ are famously representative of their genre, if they did not actually promote revolution. There is a pithy quote with each image drawn from literature, a sage of the period or Don Maclean (Vincent – Starry Starry Night 1971). It might all seem a bit like Sticky Toffee Pudding but then it’s a favourite on any menu. Authorship of the text is anonymous which is irritating and there are no footnotes but a glossary of terms at the back supports the main descriptive texts and the individual artist biographies that complete each review. Hard to put down – a snip at £22.50. PH A fine companion to the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery (until January 12, 2014), this book illustrates and examines 80 or so of his wonderfully atmospheric paintings, prints and drawings of the urban river, its bankside activities and those who earned their living along it. For me, despite the celebrity of the paintings, it’s the etchings that really hit the mark . . . AA Graham Sutherland: From Darkness into Light; mining, metal and machines. With essays by Paul Gough, Sally Moss and Tehmina Goskar, Sansom & Co pbk, 96pp, £17.95 This finely illustrated, discerningly written, compact volume illuminates his visionary yet informed wartime portrayal of Cornish tin and Welsh coal- mining, Cardiff steel furnaces, shells being pressed at Woolwich Arsenal, bomb damage in French marshalling yards. Aged 36 at the outbreak of War, Sutherland became an ‘Official War Artist’, a self-styled ‘imaginative-realist journalist’, hurriedly conjuring up, with vivid rawness and flaring grandeur, a fractured London in the Blitz, miners ‘ennobled underground’ and in ‘perpetual conflict with intractable materials’ in mines and quarries. As a result, he created some of the most poignantly sublime, apocalyptically charged images of WW2. Philip Vann Sign of The Times by Peter Brookes. 108pp, The Robson Press hbk, £17.99 Latest selection of full-colour cartoons, one per page, from The Times newspaper’s multi-award winning Peter Brookes. Beautifully observed and drawn images spanning August 2011 to August 2013: Ed Miliband a more hirsute Wallace (as in Gromit), ‘Cleggers’ as public school fag to Cameron, Osborne and Johnson, an impish Alex Salmond, and of course the Nature Notes series – Swivel-eyed Toad ( ukipus farageis ). An ideal stocking-filler – worth the price alone for the sketch of Tory grandees as ‘Westminster Village People’. AA An American in London: Whistler and the Thames by Margaret F. MacDonald and Patricia de Montfort. 192pp, col/b&w throughout, Philip Wilson hbk, £35 The Thames, in a way, both made and destroyed Whistler; his images of the river helped establish him in the 1860s and 70s and one of his Nocturnes , featuring fireworks in the background of Battersea Bridge, led to Ruskin’s accusation of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face”. This prompted Whistler to sue the critic for libel and his Pyrrhic victory ruined the painter financially. As Robert Hughes put it, “The falling rocket took him down with it; that disputed firework might have been Whistler’s own career.” BOOKS