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Art Books to Read in 2013

A list of books I shall be reading as part of my ongoing artistic development

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I'm a prolific reader, getting completely absorbed by the pages of a book, filling my brain with new things, reminders of old, ideas and inspiration. (Yes, I prefer physical books to ebooks, it's a tactile thing.) I always have something I'm reading but throughout the year have also always put aside certain books as Christmas presents to myself, as a boost through the darkest days of winter (or those energy-sapping sweltering days of mid-summer when I lived in the southern hemisphere). It's always an eclectic mix, always stimulating. Here's what was under the Christmas tree this year, what I'll be reading in 2013, and which might make it into my best books of the year list (see My 6 Best Art Books of 2012).

1. Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work by Yves Bonnefoy

Giacometti biography book
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A doorstopper of a tome, with more than 570 pages, this illustrated biography of Giacometti is packed with photographs: his sculptures, paintings, drawings, lithographs and, in the timeline of his life, photos of the artist himself. It spans his whole career and artistic output, with the text looking at his life as well as approach and techniques, which biographies sometimes ignore (to the annoyance of working artists who want to know more about the how and why, not merely the what and when!).

I am looking forward to studying Giacometti's paintings, which are less known than his sculptures but for me even more fascinating with their layers of frenetic line, and to digesting the text to learn more about the mind behind the art.

ISBN 9782080201401; edition published by Flammario in English in 2012 (previous editions 1991 and 2001).

2. Cézanne: A Life by Alex Danchev

Cezanne biography book
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Cézanne is an artist I keep promising myself I'll study further. I like his paintings when I encounter them in galleries, I know where he fits in the timeline of art, I know a bit about his life. But I feel it's too shallow a knowledge, I want to appreciate his paintings more, understand more of what he did that was so uniquely his. This new biography and having come across a quote from him about how he painted with color rather than tone (I find color absorbing to the neglect of tone) are motivating me to do it sooner rather than later.

ISBN 9781846681643 (hardback). Published by Profile Books (UK) and Pantheon Books (USA) in 2012.

3. Egon Schiele Landscapes by Rudolf Leopold

Good art books to read
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As is the case with Giacometti, where people are more familiar with only part of his artistic output, so many people are familiar with only Schiele's figure paintings, not his landscape paintings. I've liked the handful I've seen, so am delighted to have a book's worth to peruse. For me he has interesting mark making techniques and layering, as well as a unique vision of the world.
ISBN 9783791344584. Published by Prestel in 2010.

4. Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks

Good art books to read
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One of England's leading contemporary landscape painters, and someone whose work I find inspirational, Kurt Jackson believes totally in the value of sketching, of first-hand observation and information gathering. Some location work is sold as 'finished pieces', others remain hidden from public view. This book looks at his sketching in different locations, including Glastonbury Festival, offering insight into the working practice of a successful artist.

5. Acrylics Unleashed by Glyn Macey

Good art books to read
Photo © 2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
This is the only how-to book in the list, from another artist on the south coast of England whose paintings I admire for their vibrancy and color. It's got nine step-by-step demonstrations showing how he does what he does, each shown over multiple pages with a sentence or three with each photo. The beginning chapters on techniques and mark making will be interesting to explore -- to try, not simply to read about.

6. Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

Good art books to read
Photo © 2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
Ross King knows how to spin a good art yarn, and I expect this to be as much of a page-turner as The Judgement of Paris was. (I've also read his Defiant Spirits on the Canadian Group of Seven and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling.) It's about the making of this oh-so-famous painting, and I look forward to discovering the true story amongst all the myths that exist about it.

7. Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

Good art books to read
Photo © 2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
This book was withdrawn by the publisher in July 2012 after it came to light that the author had invented quotes by Bob Dylan, which Dylan-fan and Tablet Magazine journalist Michael Moynihan spotted. Subsequently it came out that a quote from Teller was wrong too. So I know to ignore these quotes, and to ponder what other things may not stand up to checking. But my view is to read it as "faction" and see what strikes me; the original premise of the book remains an interesting one.

8. What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz

Good art books to read
Photo © 2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
This book ties into observation skills, knowing what I'm looking at in the natural world, appreciating how things interact. How plants work beyond the simple level of "sunflowers turn their faces to the sun" and into the level of how (not if) plants perceive color and time amd more. Accessible, fascinating science.

Written by plant biologist Daniel Chamovitz, published in paperback and hardback.

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