100 Best Paintings in London
Florence, Venice and Rome have inspired countless books whose goal is to lead visitors through various institutions in search of ""must-see"" artworks. In this innovative guide, Geoffrey Smith creates a similarly useful work for London, sketching out an itinerary for the Thames-bound lover of painting that includes iconic establishments like the National Gallery and smaller, lesser-known collections like Kenwood House, the out-of-the-way location of Smith's personal choice for London's best painting: Rembrandt's Self-Portrait with Two Circles. Smith, a publisher by profession, isn't trying to shake up prevailing notions of art history. He describes himself as ""a committed gallery visitor, an enthusiastic layman,"" and his brief commentaries on the paintings are informative and laced with personal enthusiasm, offering more than most gallery labels. All major schools and most periods are represented, from Boticelli to David Hockney. Each painting is accompanied by a timeline of the artist's life and a short list of well-known contemporaneous works to give context. This ""best of"" list won't satisfy everyone, and the publishers have tried to pre-empt an overly disgruntled readership by putting up a website that allows readers to submit their own choices for London's best paintings. One obvious drawback is the absence of more recent works: the youngest paintings in the book, by Anselm Kiefer and David Inshaw, date from the early 1970s. While it offers no inroads into London's active contemporary art scene, this well-produced guide will be a welcome companion to those seeking out the city's most treasured canvases.