Simon Schama's Power of Art, Hardback Book

Simon Schama's Power of Art Hardback

4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


'Great art has dreadful manners...' Simon Schama observes at the start of his epic exploration of the power, and whole point, of art. 'The hushed reverence of the gallery can fool you into believing masterpieces are polite things, visions that soothe, charm and beguile, but actually they are thugs.

Merciless and wily, the greatest paintings grab you in a headlock, rough up your composure and then proceed in short order to re-arrange your sense of reality...' With the same disarming force, Power of Art jolts us far from the comfort zone of the hushed art gallery, as Schama closes in on intense make-or-break turning points in the lives of eight great artists who, under extreme stress, created something unprecedented, altering the course of art forever. The embattled heroes - Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko - faced crisis with steadfast defiance.

The masterpieces they created challenged convention, shattered complacency, shifted awareness and changed the way we look at the world.

With powerfully vivid story-telling, Schama explores the dynamic personalities of the artists and the spirit of the times they lived through, capturing the flamboyant theatre of bourgeouis life in Amsterdam, the passion and paranoia of Revolutionary Paris, and the carnage and pathos of civil-war Spain. Most compelling of all, Power of Art traces the extraordinary evolution of eight world-class works of art.

Created in a bolt of illumination, such works 'tell us something about how the world is, how it is to be inside our skins, that no more prosaic source of wisdom can deliver. And when they do that they answer, irrefutably and majestically, the nagging question of every reluctant art-conscript... "OK, OK, but what's art really for?"




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Excellent introduction to the works and lives of the eight artists starring in this book. Brilliant erudition exposed in lively writing. A very good way to make your start in art history. Some critical remarks: it seems that for Schama a work of art is particularly forceful if the artist puts much of his (her?) own experience in it. Is the force of a work of art the same thing as "[the] Force of Art"? What about works by artists from Antiquity or Middle Ages? If the expression of personal (emotional)experience is absent, can a work of art still be forceful? I would have liked a little bit more of general reflections in a book with such a title. Even if this would mean trespassing on the territory of aesthetics...The different chapters could be published as independent booklets or essays. This is probably the consequence of the initial nature of "Simon Schama's Force of Art" - a TV series. But in editing the text for book publication some rewriting could have been done making some more cross-references and unifying thus a little bit more the fascinating subject matter of this book.The reproductions are very fine and well-placed next to the text they are illustrating.

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