Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Cassatt by Nathalia Brodskaia

Mary Cassatt is one of the few women artists in history who is as famous as her male counterparts. She was a fully fledged member of the Impressionists, despite being an American and a woman(Berthe Morisot was the only other woman, but was French, as were the male Impressionists). This book takes a slightly different angle on the artist, both in format and focusing mainly on her art, with only a sketchy bio. What text there is, has many quotes from Cassatt, reviewers and colleagues, making it feel very modern, like an article in Hello! or People magazine.
The narrative skips around a bit too much, but I’m not certain if that’s a translation problem or was in the original. I was annoyed at how the author kept insisting that until recently, there was a lack of art, classical or otherwise, in the U.S. Even in colonial days, there were fine artists, such as Benjamin West, working here.
The volume is one of a series on artists and subjects, such as shoes (!?!). It’s a paperback, but not of usual size, instead it’s one of those cube books. It’s unfortunate, because the art deserves a bigger format, but maybe the trendy size will introduce the subject to more people? The artwork fills the right-hand page, with the facing left page holding text in the middle and 3 small detail shots lining the edge. The detail pictures seem chosen at random and have a jigsaw quality, as it’s not always apparent where they are from. There were instances where I thought I was studying part of a wooded background and it turned out to be a lace collar instead.
Aside from that, there were many pieces I’d never seen before. I had no idea the artist had done so much printmaking; etching and other types. Cassatt specialized in scenes of women and children, usually in domestic settings, sometimes with a little dog or parrot nearby. Seeing such a large amount of her work, one can appreciate the variety that she brought to what would seem a limiting subject. The book often placed two versions, in different mediums, of the same piece on subsequent pages, making it easy to compare the differences, in say, an oil painting to a pastel.
In that way, it was obvious that the book could be of interest to an artist, as well as an art appreciator or as an introduction to the subject. It’s enough of an incentive to seek out some other volumes in the series at a library or book shop and well worth the effort.

Grange Books 2006 translated by Sofya Hundt 255 pp. ISBN 978-1-84013-922-8

Jackie is an artist too, though she doesn’t paint as well as Mary Cassatt. To see some of her wildlife art work, look here .

2 comments on “Cassatt by Nathalia Brodskaia

  1. Moira
    November 29, 2010

    Mmm. You plainly have very mixed feelings about this one, Jackie. When you say it’s a ‘cube’ book, it sort of brings to mind those chunky things I had as a kid – the kind that valiantly resisted toddler teeth. How big are the pages? Because an art book with small pages seems to be slightly defeating the whole object of the exercise.

  2. Jackie
    December 13, 2010

    The cube books are about 6 in.x 4 1/2 inches and between 2-3 inches thick. I have several animal books in this format & agree that the format is more trendy than practical.
    I don’t think these cube books would resist toddler chomping, but still might be fun for the toddler anyways.

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2010 by in Entries by Jackie, Non-fiction: biography, Non-fiction:art and tagged , , , .



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