Rendez-Vous with Art

Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford. Thames & Hudson, $35 (248p) ISBN 978-0-500-23924-7
The premise—two art experts look at some of the world’s most magnificent works in tandem—is a good one, offering readers guided tours of the Louvre, the Prado, the Palazzo Pitti, and other prestigious institutions. The experts in question, Philippe de Montebello, who spent 31 years as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Martin Gayford (Man With a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud), a highly regarded British art critic, certainly fit the bill. The book adds an ingenious twist to the classic approach to art criticism, which is, for the most part, effective. Montebello and Gayford offer depth and context to key works by Bosch, Goya, Vermeer, followed by erudite discussions. The authors’ admissions that they didn’t appreciate certain styles or eras at first; explanations regarding the effects of a museum’s physical layout on a visitor’s experience and interpretation, and the declaration that we’re now spending more time looking at photos and reproductions of artworks than the real thing are sure to provoke a response. Assuming readers can get past the authors’ egos (which loom large) and their penchant for peppering their text with purple prose, there are considerable insights into the featured art. 75 color and b&w illus. Agent: Vital Vayness; David Godwin, David Godwin Associates (U.K.) (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/14/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
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