Category Archives: Book Reviews

Classical Painting Atelier by Juliette Aristides…. Review

Classical Painting Atelier by Juliette Aristides

The author provides an excellent view of the traditional atelier painting approach as it is applied in a growing number of American art schools. Well written, constructed in an easily accessible way, the book flows well, with only one or two more detailed areas that can be confusing (probably more because I was not that interested in them, than they were poorly presented).

A short introductory chapter establishes the context for the work. I found it religously and culturally centred on the American perspective (no suprise as I’m not an American so the perspective does tend to jar a little).But this does not detract from the work, it just guided me to set some commentary aside as a I would when reading Ruskin.

Part One of the book covers historical and contemporary studio practice, moving quickly through an overview of the progression of skill development in a moodern atelier. This part ends with a one page description of the structure of the book, I found this to be well placed as it makes up to some extent for the lack of a teacher being physically present.

Part Two discusses Timeless Principles. This section while interesting, was rather dry and complex, particularly in the opening stage. Much of it is essential reading and should not be brushed over. For a rank beginner I would suggest reading this section lightly and going back to it as you move forward through the book.

Part Three discusses Timeless Practices. I found this Part a bit summary, being too short and written in too mmuch brevity. I would think however that a beginner would be well served by this section of the book.

Part Four is a discussion of Master works. This is a very broad brush section, half the space is devoted to images and the discussion of each work is therefore quite short. As an overview (and little more can be expected from a book of only 240 pages and a vast number of images) this is an excellent work. The book appears to be intended to guide the reader towards enrolling at an atelier, which is a right and proper thing to do if the reader is interested in developing strongly as a representational artist.

I do recommend this book as part of a program of reading and practice.

Painting Light.. The Hidden Techniques of the Impressionists

For the oil painter this is an invaluable resource work. It works through the subject of what Impressionism is and how artists of the second half of the 19th century cretaed Impressionist works.

“What Impressionism is” takes 20 pages to cover, fortunately half of those pages are images not text. This opening is followed by 24 pages on materials their production and distribution, again about half of the pages are images. The quality of the information in these two chapters is excellent, the topics provide plenty of scope for rambling aimlessly but the writing holds the path well.

Next the book considers if the works were done inside, outside, using photographs etc. Another 26 pages but with more than half being images, there is plenty of information and not at all dull in approach or presentation.

Perhaps the most interesting topic is that of how spontanious the works are. A good investigation in depth that reveals that all is not as dashed off as it looks. The issue of when a work was considered complete is also covered without arriving at more than an open finding. The book ends by considering how the works have been altered by time, dust dirt etc.

This book was produced for an exhibition at the Palace Strozzi, Florence in mid 2008 Published by Skira Editore S.p.A.

For any artist that has more than a passing interest in technique this an excellent publication.

Author Neil Miley

Jules Bastien-Lepage and His Art, A Memoir by Andre Theuriet

This book first published in 1893 (and not reprinted since) contains four works. The first by Andre Theuriet is a memoir of his friend Bastien-Lepage, it discusses the development of his art from a none technical perspective, while giving accassional glimpses of how the works were produced. This is a fine character study with no critical evaluation of the man.

The second work is by George Clausen the major English exponent of Lepage’s approach to painting during the 1880s. Written some 7 years after the death of Lepage and within the context of the rise of Impressionism, Clausen both praises and is critical of the naturalism developed by Lepage.

The third work is a rather acerbic article by Walter Sickert on the work of Lepage. The constant comparison of Millet and Lepage is rather tedious and displays a desire to limit artistic expression to a very narrow path. One has the feeling that Sickert is self promoting himself and justifying his own art rather than making a valuable contribution to art history.

The fourth and final work is by Matilde Blind and it is a commentary on Marie Bashkirtseff. Bashkirtseff was a contemporary of Lepage and there appears to have been a strong connection between them. Stylistically and in artistic expression they were closely aligned. Blind makes a good effort to write of an artist whose life was already well known through the publication of her diaries.

In all this is an excellent book, well worth a read by anyone attempting to understand the development of western art in the late 19th century.

This book is very expensive and it is suggested that most of us will have to go to the library to ever see it. Published by T. Fisher Unwin, New York and London.

Oil Painting Techniques and Materials by Harold Speed

Originally published in 1924 this book is as warm and engaging as it was then. The version being reviewed is the Dover Publications Inc first published in 1987. It is a fine technical work that every artist starting out to paint in oils must have on their book shelf.

The sections of the book that cover Tone and Colour are presented in a manner that does not require any prior knowledge. They are accompanied with practical exercises that work through the important areas in these topics.

Perhaps the best section of the book is the Materials topic. Covering the qualities and issues in using particular colours, brushes and supports it is wonderfully to the point.

The informality of the book is almost its best feature, it is almost as though the author were having a conversation with you.

The book has been in almost continuous print since first publication and it is easy to see why. It is an inexpensive book in paper form but for the eBook reader it is available free from several sites, just Google search the title of the book.