Simon Schama's Power of Art

Front Cover
BBC Books, 2006 - Art - 448 pages

'Great art has dreadful manners...' Simon Schama observes at the start of his epic exploration of the power, and whole point, of art. 'The hushed reverence of the gallery can fool you into believing masterpieces are polite things, visions that soothe, charm and beguile, but actually they are thugs. Merciless and wily, the greatest paintings grab you in a headlock, rough up your composure and then proceed in short order to re-arrange your sense of reality...' With the same disarming force, Power of Art jolts us far from the comfort zone of the hushed art gallery, as Schama closes in on intense make-or-break turning points in the lives of eight great artists who, under extreme stress, created something unprecedented, altering the course of art forever.
The embattled heroes - Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko - faced crisis with steadfast defiance. The masterpieces they created challenged convention, shattered complacency, shifted awareness and changed the way we look at the world. With powerfully vivid story-telling, Schama explores the dynamic personalities of the artists and the spirit of the times they lived through, capturing the flamboyant theatre of bourgeouis life in Amsterdam, the passion and paranoia of Revolutionary Paris, and the carnage and pathos of civil-war Spain.
Most compelling of all, Power of Art traces the extraordinary evolution of eight world-class works of art. Created in a bolt of illumination, such works 'tell us something about how the world is, how it is to be inside our skins, that no more prosaic source of wisdom can deliver. And when they do that they answer, irrefutably and majestically, the nagging question of every reluctant art-conscript... "OK, OK, but what's art really for?"

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mahallett - LibraryThing

a little over the top. not enough opinion about the illustrated works. it's not very helpful to talk about work you can't see. i could barely lift this book. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - kant1066 - LibraryThing

I debated over and over whether to give this book three stars or four, and finally decided on the latter. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I read this as a stand-alone book, not a companion piece ... Read full review

About the author (2006)

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University. His award-winning books, translated into fifteen languages, include Citizens, Landscape and Memory, Rembrandt's Eyes, A History of Britain, The Power of Art, Rough Crossings, The American Future, The Face of Britain and The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000 BCE - 1492).

His art columns for the New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for criticism and his journalism has appeared regularly in the Guardian and the Financial Times where he is Contributing Editor. He has written and presented more than fifty films for the BBC on subjects as diverse as Tolstoy, American politics, and The Story of the Jews and is co-presenter of a new landmark series on the history of world art, Civilisations.

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