Image of the Body

Michael Gill, Author Doubleday Books $40 (476p) ISBN 978-0-385-26072-5
Gill, a TV producer of art documentaries in Britain (he directed Kenneth Clark's Civilization ), here takes on an ambitious subject, last dealt with in Clark's monumental The Nude. He brings a knowing eye and a quantity of non-pedantic scholarship to bear on the representation of the human form from the earliest cave drawings to the fragmented, often ideological images of today. He is at his best on early and late art, entering imaginatively into the worlds of the cave artists and of erotic turn-of-the-century artists like Klimt and Schiele, who heralded contemporary sexual obsessions. On Greek and Renaissance art, those periods of maximum idealization of the body, he has nothing much new to offer. Inevitably there are some highly controversial images here, though Gill's commentary, like his approach to the jacket art (he had the late Robert Mapplethorpe photograph it specially for the book), is always calm and reasonable. The hundreds of pictures--all, alas, in black-and-white only--are well keyed to the text, and the result is a painless series of art appreciation lectures from a civilized teacher. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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