Estimated read time: 11-12 minutes
``Arnold Schoenberg: Catalogue Raisonne'' by Christian Meyer; Thames & Hudson (two volumes, $295)
Arnold Schoenberg rightly has been called the most constantly expressive composer of the early 20th century. During that period he also painted, and those works, too, are relentlessly intense but much less well-known than his music. Now, more than 50 years after his death, come these two landmark volumes, which establish that his portraits, fantasies, caricatures and nature pieces shed light not only on the man but also culture of the pre-World War I era.
For once, a self-taught artist did not stand apart from the most powerful trained painters of the day but firmly among them, setting down the same longings and terrors in a language marked by similar expressive distortion. Intended for scholars, this set will nonetheless be an adventure to anyone interested in the great age of Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler and Wassily Kandinsky.
``Italian Frescoes: The Age of Giotto, 1280-1400'' by Joachim Poeschke; Abbeville ($135)
This is the fourth installment in Abbeville's authoritative series on Italian fresco painting and the earliest in its span of time covered, which encompassed works by, among others, Giovanni Cimabue, Giotto di Bondone, Pietro Cavallini, Simone Martini, and Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
Twenty-two fresco cycles are presented in superb color photographs by Antonio Quattrone and Ghigo Roli along with drawings that identify where in each building everything is and, of course, texts that explore all aspects of the projects. The marvel again is how well the book's high production values succeed in conveying the achievements of sites that not so long ago still had to be visited if they were to be comprehended.
``Egon Schiele,'' edited by Renee Price; Prestel ($49.95)
The Neue Galerie, New York's museum of German and Austian art, was founded partly as a result of the love art dealer Serge Sabarsky and collector Ronald Lauder had for the works of the electrifying early 20th-century draftsman and painter Egon Schiele. Their Schiele collections-none finer in the United States - are showing at the museum through Feb. 20, and this catalog boldly presents them along with essays and reminiscences by virtually everyone who significantly furthered Schiele's cause in North America. The sections on the artist's continuing influence on pictorial culture are particular eye openers. A special, often highly personal, volume.
``Henri Matisse Drawings 1936: A Facsimile Edition,'' preface by Christian Zervos, poem by Tristan Tzara; George Braziller ($49.95)
A decade after publisher Christian Zervos founded the contemporary journal Cahiers d'Art, he devoted several issues to 39 Henri Matisse drawings. All of them are reproduced in this handsome facsimile, which includes texts by Zervos and Tristan Tzara translated by poet and critic Richard Howard. The subject of all but three drawings is woman, sometimes recalling Middle Eastern odalisques but more often depicting contemporary models in interiors, occasionally with mirrors and Matisse himself working. Seldom in the 20th century was the joy of sensuality conveyed with such ease and fluency.
``David Milne Watercolours'' by Katharine Lochnan; Art Gallery of Ontario/Douglas & McIntyre ($50)
David Milne (1882-1953) was one of Canada's most prominent modern artists, though his first exhibition to travel outside his homeland is circulating only now and will be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York through Jan. 29. This is its catalog, though the six scholars who have contributed essays ensure that the volume also functions as a solid introduction to a personal, arresting practitioner of the medium of watercolor. If only for his tough-minded scenes of World War I, Milne clearly is an artist who deserved international attention. A fine discovery.
``Lucian Freud: 1996-2005,'' introduction by Sebastian Smee; Knopf ($75)
For decades Lucian Freud has been acknowledged as the world's greatest realist. No one has come up to his achievements in portraiture and studies of the human figure, and even now, at 83, he is without equal in the ability to move an audience with the brutality of fact. This volume indicates he is as restless in regard to subject matter (people, animals, a favorite bush in his garden) and unsparing in treatments (portraits of heads match in power full-figure images) as ever, so there's nothing like a settled late style, and we are all the beneficiaries. Essential viewing.
``Peter Fischli, David Weiss'' by Robert Fleck, Beate Soentgen and Arthur Danto; Phaidon ($39.95)
The Swiss duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss was formed almost 30 years ago, yet only now has a publication presented an overview of their antic artistic endeavors. The full range of their inimitable sculptures, videos and photographic works is here complemented by excerpts from their writings and a rare interview. They are confirmed as two of the most unpredictable artists working today. To describe their brilliance is difficult enough. Here we receive a fuller understanding, not least through Arthur Danto's analysis of their masterpiece, the 1987 film "The Way Things Go."
``Jenny Saville'' by John Gray, Linda Nochlin, David Sylvester and Simon Schama; Rizzoli ($50)
Practitioners of expressive contemporary figure painting are not so great in number that anyone can afford to ignore Jenny Saville, the British artist who is still in her 30s, has had only a handful of solo exhibitions but already years ago created a sensation. She grew up, as she says here in an interview with Simon Schama, looking at the paintings of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach, so she seeks to render flesh in all its juicy weightiness. This, her first full-scale monograph, presents a vision that in its sheer physicality is at once repugnant and thrilling.
``Comprehensively Clarice Cliff'' by Greg Slater and Jonathan Brough; Thames & Hudson ($95)
Ceramist Clarice Cliff already has been the subject of a biography. Now comes the first survey of the many, many works she created from the 1920s to the 1950s, as well as pieces by other designers of the A.J. Wilkinson pottery where she made her name. Text here is at a minimum; pictures are the thing, more than 2,000 of them that amply show why her functional work has been so avidly collected. Information for collectors, including all pattern names, numbers and backstamps, is presented in exemplary fashion. For everyone else there is the thrill of the pictures.
``Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation'' by Gilles Deleuze, translation and introduction by Daniel W. Smith; University of Minnesota Press ($29.95 hardcover, $19.95 paper)
Philosopher Gilles Deleuze's complex approach to the paintings of one of the 20th century's greatest artists appeared in France in 1981, with one volume devoted to text and another to reproductions. Now, a decade after the writer's death, the text has been translated into English in an affordable edition shorn of reproductions. For those interested in the abstruse philosophy Deleuze constructed, that perhaps will be a blessing. For those interested in Bacon, they will feel the absence even while being tested by an intellect functioning at the top of his powers.
``Jazzlife'' by William Claxton and Joachim E. Berendt; Taschen ($200, includes CD)
In 1960 American photographer William Claxton and German musicologist Joachim E. Berendt drove across the United States to the great cities of jazz. The book they produced was issued the following year with two 7-inch discs of music Berendt had recorded on the trip, and it became a classic. Taschen now has issued a second edition, with texts in English, French and German, many pictures that had not been previously published and a CD of the original recordings. Even those with minimal interest in jazz will be captivated. The photographs are some of the most atmospheric ever taken of musicians and their haunts, the large-format reproductions are flawless.
``The Art of Frederick Sommer: Photography, Drawing, Collage,'' essay by Keith F. Davis, interview by Michael Torosian, chronology by April M. Watson; Yale University Press ($65)
A half-dozen exhibitions celebrated this year's centenary of the birth of Frederick Sommer, but there was just a single comprehensive study, and it turns out to be the only book in print that surveys more than one of the legendary polymath's endeavors. His photographs are some of the most astonishing modern works of the medium. His drawings include musical scores that actually have been performed. His collages are equally personal works of art. Quotations and extended excerpts from interviews bind everything together in a lavish, exciting volume.
``Irving Penn Platinum Prints'' by Sarah Greenough; Yale University Press ($50)
Photographs printed on platinum paper are some of the warmest and richest pictures of the medium. Irving Penn was attracted to platinum printing in the 1960s, reinterpreting famous earlier images and eventually employing them to create collages meant to stand as independent works of art. This volume, the catalog for an exhibition recently at the National Gallery of Art, reproduces all of the collages as well as the full images used in them. The quality of the reproductions is gratifying, and curator Sarah Greenough describes Penn's quest clearly and succinctly.
``Woman in the Mirror'' by Richard Avedon, essay by Anne Hollander; Abrams ($65)
The last book Richard Avedon completed before he died in 2004 is devoted to almost 60 years of his images of women. Many are fashion pictures, but there also are portraits, and the juxtaposition gives the volume greatest interest. Manufactured fashion-biz feeling alternates with nearly overwhelming anxiety until both crest in a death-and-the-maiden fantasy (in color) that is followed by an emotionally kaleidoscopic coda. There's little real gaiety here, though what there is - typified by a shot of Avedon's radiant young wife in a Paris hotel room - proves unforgettable.
``At City's Edge: Photographs of the Chicago Lakefront'' by Bob Thall; Center for American Places/Columbia College Chicago ($45)
Bob Thall long thought the lakefront was not part of "the social and architectural reality of Chicago," which he considered the abiding subjects of his photographs. But five years ago he decided he had to come to terms with that seam between order and flux, and he began to create the body of work from which 61 black-and-white images have been collected here. The pictures are spare, open, quiet and chilly. Not one is pretty, though many are beautiful in the crisp, hard way they have captured places and details that most Chicagoans know but seldom really see.
``The Age of Adolescence: Joseph Sterling Photographs 1959-1964'' by Joseph Sterling, introduction by David Travis; Greybull ($65)
For his graduate thesis at the Institute of Design, Joseph Sterling, a shy young photographer from Texas, sought to produce a document on adolescence. His own, he has written, was the most difficult possible, so many of the thousands of black-and-white images he took in Chicago over five years were, in essence, self-portraits. More than 100 are collected here, and they capture the bravado and awkwardness of adolescence in pictures with strong formal qualities. Those who grew up in lower-middle-class Chicago during this period will see themselves plainly, powerfully reflected.
``Model American,'' photographs by Katy Grannan, essay by Jan Avgikos; Aperture ($40)
All of Katy Grannan's subjects applied to her ads in local newspapers and decided if they would be photographed clothed, nude or in partial states of undress. She worked with them to arrive at the pose, which they took in their own settings, Grannan's home or, later, municipal parks and surrounding areas. From the results, one wonders what they thought they were up to. In color or black and white, these portraits reveal glamorous ideas about the self and its environment that the pictures consistently undercut. Fascinating and troubling.
``Art Photography Now,'' edited by Susan Bright; Aperture ($50)
A former curator of the National Portrait Gallery in London surveys the work of 80 contemporary art photographers, exploring their subjects, styles and methods with the aid of their own words. The teeming scene in photography is sorted out into seven categories - from portrait to landscape to document to city - each of which is explored. Most of the work reproduced is in color, and there are so many pictures that the pages sometimes come close to being overloaded. The writing, however, is clear and uncluttered, giving excellent introductions all around.
``The Oxford Companion to the Photograph,'' edited by Robin Lenman; Oxford University Press ($65)
Historian Robin Lenman and a team of 18 advisory editors have produced a volume that orders the whole 166-year history of photography into 1,600 entries arranged "A" to "Z." More than 800 biographies share space with thematic and technical articles plus country-by-country historical surveys, a chronology, select bibliography as well as a long list of significant Web sites. It makes for the kind of book you think you'll just dip into but are continually spurred to continue reading. The quality of the writing - and the reproductions - make this a reference to keep close at hand.
(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.