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The Power of Art

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The Power of Art Cover

ISBN13: 9780061176104
ISBN10: 0061176109
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Great art has dreadful manners," Simon Schama observes wryly at the start of his epic and explosive 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, The Power of Art propels us on an eye-opening, breathtaking odyssey, zooming in on eight extraordinary masterpieces, from Caravaggio's David and Goliath to Picasso's Guernica. Jolting us far from the comfort zone of the hushed art gallery, 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, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko—each in his own resolute way, faced crisis with steadfast defiance, pitting passion and conviction against scorn and short-sightedness. The masterpieces they created challenged convention, shattered complacency, shifted awareness and changed the way we look at the world.

With vivid storytelling and powerfully evocative descriptive passages, Schama explores the dynamic personalities of the artists and the spirit of the times they lived through, capturing the flamboyant theatre of bourgeois life in Amsterdam, the passion and paranoia of Revolutionary Paris, and the carnage and pathos of Civil War Spain.

Most compelling of all, The Power of Art traces the extraordinary evolution of eight "eye-popping" 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?'"

Book News Annotation:

In this companion volume to a PBS television series of the same name, Schama (art history, Columbia U., New York) discusses the power and "the whole point" of art through examinations of the life and work of Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rothko. Particularly focusing on one piece by each artist (though others are reproduced as well) and placing them in context of artistic and political history as well as their contemporary circumstances, the author seeks to explain Picasso's contention that "art is dangerous." Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

Great art has dreadful manners, Simon Schama observes wryly at the start of his epic and explosive 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, The Power of Art propels us on an eye-opening, breathtaking odyssey, zooming in on eight extraordinary masterpieces, from Caravaggio's David and Goliath to Picasso's Guernica. Jolting us far from the comfort zone of the hushed art gallery, 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, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko-; each in his own resolute way, faced crisis with steadfast defiance, pitting passion and conviction against scorn and short-sightedness. The masterpieces they created challenged convention, shattered complacency, shifted awareness and changed the way we look at the world.

With vivid storytelling and powerfully evocative descriptive passages, Schama explores the dynamic personalities of the artists and the spirit of the times they lived through, capturing the flamboyant theatre of bourgeois life in Amsterdam, the passion and paranoia of Revolutionary Paris, and the carnage and pathos of Civil War Spain.

Most compelling of all, The Powerof Art traces the extraordinary evolution of eight eye-popping 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?'

Synopsis:

The companion book to the 8-part PBS Series of the same name, hosted by Simon Schama Discover the untold stories behind the masterworks of Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Rothko and Picasso. The Power of Art takes us out of the comfort zone of the museum and the gallery and jolts us back to the dramatic moments when eight great artists produced their finest masterpieces, turning a page in the history of art forever.

About the Author

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University; a bestselling, prize-winning author and broadcaster; and an art critic and cultural essayist for The New Yorker whose writing has also appeared regularly in The New Republic, The Guardian, and The New York Review of Books.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Grady Harp, October 11, 2009 (view all comments by Grady Harp)
'The power of art is the power of unsettling surprise.'

Simon Schama is a name as closely associated with art criticism as Alistair Cooke is with Masterpiece Theater: both have won acclaim for their erudite introductions to history and the 'march toward civilization' and both have entered the homes of many by means of television. And as with any television based program the content must be challenging if not confrontational in order to keep audiences returning for more.

Simon Schama is not merely an art historian; he is also a social historian and an observer of human behavior through the centuries (with at times projections of predictions into the future). Fortunately his thoughts have been well translated to richly detailed and designed books - 'Rembrandt's Eyes', Landscape and Memory', The American future: a History', 'The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age' - and this excellent book THE POWER OF ART. Schama seems to delight in leading the reader into places unexpected, offering fascinating details of eight artists' lives and ending with a punch to the gut of how that artist stepped away form painting pleasing pictures to producing works that stop the viewer in the gallery or museum stroll and cause a Eureka moment. And he writes with the skill of a novelist, leading us to the climax by allowing us to gradually understand why each artist he elects to discuss struggled with personal and social and spiritual dilemmas that drove them to the point of making shattering works.

Beginning with Caravaggio, Schama presents as interesting a life history of this artist as is found in most longer treatises, brewing the potion that resulted in the troubling painting of 'David and Goliath' - Caravaggio having the courage to present two self portraits, David is the artist as a youth and the beheaded Goliath is the artist at the time of the painting. He then proceeds to examine Bernini in much the same way, the climax of this spiritual artist's work being the very sensuous 'Ecstasy of St. Theresa' and the equally scandalous 'The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni'. Rembrandt is presented as a man of dignity and an exceptional portrait artist until the furor about 'The conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis ' and the more famous 'The Night Watch'. Jacques-Louis David is explored to the point of his famous 'A Marat', a work that for many was a marker for the French Revolution. Schama continues his 'history of art and civilization with similar examination of the masterworks of Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko - painters known to all of us but whose inner motivations to create the climactic masterworks discussed here may not be as appreciated as after reading Schama's commentary.

As with all of Simon Schama's books his power of writing, involving the reader in each period of history in which he pauses to open windows of understanding, is one of the reasons his approach to art and history works so well. This is a dynamic book, as interesting as a novel of historical base as any, and enhanced by excellent reproductions of art by some of the more fascinating artists of history.

Grady Harp
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Abigail, December 13, 2006 (view all comments by Abigail)
"Art History" and "page turner" are not terms that I generally put together, but Simon Schama's book The Power of Art is both. Schama tells the life stories of 8 of western art's greatest painters complete with all the gossipy details which make this read so fascinating. From murderous Caravaggio to modern Rothko the artistic genius is explored and explained, showing us that the souls behind the works we love were anything but uncomplicated.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061176104
Publisher:
Ecco
Subject:
History - General
Author:
Schama, Simon
Author:
by Simon Schama
Subject:
Philosophy
Subject:
Criticism
Subject:
Artists
Subject:
History : General
Subject:
General
Subject:
Criticism -- Theory.
Subject:
Art appreciation
Subject:
Art-History and Criticism
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20061107
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
10 x 7.5 in 55.2 oz

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Art » Theory and Criticism

The Power of Art
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$ In Stock
Product details 448 pages Ecco - English 9780061176104 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Great art has dreadful manners, Simon Schama observes wryly at the start of his epic and explosive 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, The Power of Art propels us on an eye-opening, breathtaking odyssey, zooming in on eight extraordinary masterpieces, from Caravaggio's David and Goliath to Picasso's Guernica. Jolting us far from the comfort zone of the hushed art gallery, 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, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko-; each in his own resolute way, faced crisis with steadfast defiance, pitting passion and conviction against scorn and short-sightedness. The masterpieces they created challenged convention, shattered complacency, shifted awareness and changed the way we look at the world.

With vivid storytelling and powerfully evocative descriptive passages, Schama explores the dynamic personalities of the artists and the spirit of the times they lived through, capturing the flamboyant theatre of bourgeois life in Amsterdam, the passion and paranoia of Revolutionary Paris, and the carnage and pathos of Civil War Spain.

Most compelling of all, The Powerof Art traces the extraordinary evolution of eight eye-popping 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?'

"Synopsis" by , The companion book to the 8-part PBS Series of the same name, hosted by Simon Schama Discover the untold stories behind the masterworks of Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Rothko and Picasso. The Power of Art takes us out of the comfort zone of the museum and the gallery and jolts us back to the dramatic moments when eight great artists produced their finest masterpieces, turning a page in the history of art forever.

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