Galleries - July 2014

Director’s Choice: Mauritshuis by Emilie E.S. Gordenker. 80pp, ill. throughout, Scala pbk, £9.95 ‘The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis’ is a real gem amongst European museums, housed in a classic 17th C. building in The Hague and with an outstanding collection of Dutch and Flemish Golden Age masterpieces. And what a collection it is – Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp , Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft and works by Holbein, Hals, Steen, Rubens, Ruisdael, Avercamp and many more. In this engaging, compact book, Director Emilie Gordenker comments on around 35 of her personal favourites, reproduced one per spread (often with a blown-up detail). A neat idea, well executed – look out for other titles in the series. AA Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926-1938 , ed. by Anne Umland. The Museum of Modern Art, New York via Thames & Hudson, hbk, 256pp, 225 col ill, £45 In this handsome book, essays by seven authors skilfully explore Magritte’s early Surrealist evolution. Visionary experiences triggered his mysterious awareness of such mundane marvels as floorboards, mouldings on walls and leaf veins. Disquietingly juxtaposed, such elements were metamorphosed into ominous pictorial paradoxes: lovers kissing swathed in face- obliterating sheets, ‘large clouds . . . crawling over the ground’, bacon on a plate with an eerily transfixing human eye at its centre. The story of his commission for three paintings (1937-38) in Edward James’s spectacularly bizarre London house, is enthrallingly told; the first photo of Magritte in his persona as bowler-hatted man was taken there. Philip Vann Constant within the change: Gary Wragg – Five Decades of Paintings: A comprehensive catalogue . 2 vols, Sansom and Co hbk, £110 This book includes over 500 illustrations as well as short, erudite essays by Hilary Spurling, Terence Maroon, Matthew Collins, Stefanie Sachsenmaier and Sam Cornish. However, the contributions throughout by the Artist himself are also refreshingly clear and to the point: “I feel the inner voice in painting will always prevail, regardless of shifts in established taste in art.” Wragg’s Art is optimistic as well as accomplished and this publication will hopefully reach a new generation of painters. The final word should be given to Bryan Robertson (quoted by Sam Cornish). Wragg’s paintings “do not reveal themselves at first glance; they not only repay prolonged study, they demand it.” Chris Insoll Art and the Second World War by Monica Bohm-Duchen. 288pp, 215 ills, Lund Humphries hbk, £40 A far-reaching overview of the artistic response to the conflict, from the preludial Spanish Civil War to the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan. A dozen chapters discuss art in most of the major combatant nations including China and the Commonwealth, providing the most wide-ranging treatment of the subject available in English. The big names and official schemes are present of course, but especially welcome is the coverage of lesser known images and artists, not least the work of civilian internees, POWs and other camp inmates. Well illustrated, extensively researched and highly approachable. AA BOOK reviews summer reads 10 GALLERIES JULY 2014