cover image Reclining Nude

Reclining Nude

Chronicle Books, Lydia Guibert Ferrara, Lidia Guibert Ferrara. Chronicle Books, $25 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-3665-4

Imagine 129 full-page color plates of some of the most languid women ever painted in the West, one after another, and you'll have some idea of the cumulative effect of this book. It lacks a subtitle presumably because the title describes the book's contents so well on its own: the book tracks the female reclining nude from the early 16th-century geniuses Cranach and Tiziano (Titian) to the brutalism of Spencer and Freud (and the perversion of Balthus). Ferrara is a graphic designer teaching at Milan's European Institute of Design, and her selections have much less to do with art history than with visceral impact, art historian Frances Borzello's large-print, seven-paragraph introduction notwithstanding. The plates are crisply printed and beautifully presented, with all identifying text (aside from the artist's last name) banished to the back of the book. There are some clunkers (such as the four Wesselmanns that end the book), but being able to quickly compare Velasquez, Manet, Ingres, Millet, and Bonnard masterpieces of the form is worth the price of admission, even if the package is intellectually flimsy.