Anyone with even a passing interesting in modern art needs to own, at the very least, have access to this informational book by Prestel Publishing.
While I originally debated some of the artists (Whistler and Cezanne), it is fascinating to read a fact cheat sheets on each of the 50 artists. The book is designed so you don’t have to read front to back, however, it does make for an incredibly interesting read when you do.
For the most part, each artist has a comprehensive biography listing the important factors in their career. There is a detailed timeline on the top of the page highlight artists within a century timeframe. This helps show the influences of the artists but also significant issues such as the war.
A selection of dates are posted underneath the portrait of the artist. This usually has dates related to birth, death and dates related to paintings for which they are known for.
The page on the artists is filled with normal information usually found on the author but also some more trivia data. It is this balance that separates this book from other introductory art books. The author has selected the perfect taster amount to satisfy those who only want an introduction, but gives information should you want to investigate more.
The 50 artists featured [please note, this information is taken directly from the book]:
- James McNeil Whistler 1834-1903 – considered first major American artist to ear an international reputation.
- Paul Cezanne 1839-1906 ‘I am the forerunner of the new art. And I sense my work will be continued.’
- Claude Monet 1840-1926 was an intermediary between tradition and modernism.
Augste Rodin 1840-1917 considered the most important representative of sculpture in the late 19th century.
- Henri Rousseau 1844-1910. Something of an oddball of modernism – his work is difficult to categorize into any single established artistic style.
- Mary Cassatt 1844-1926 only American member of the original French Impressionist group.
- Paul Gauguin 1848-1903 After starting out as an Impressionist, he gave up realistic representation and found a new revolutionary style of his own.
- Vincent Van Gogh 1853-1890 paved the way for modern painting work an extraordinary but powerful oeuvre.
- Georges Seurat 1859-1891 This French painter managed to go beyond Impressionism by systematically developing a basic idea.
- Gustav Klimt 1862-1918 an outstanding representative of Austrian Art Nouveau and was a key figure in the international avant-garde breakthrough in Vienna.
- Edvard Munch 1863-1944 Norwegian painter was a pioneer of modern art.
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1864-1901 focused on areas of life that were not previously considered worth painting.
- Vasil Kandinsky 1866-1944 triggered the most radical revolution in painting since the Renaissance, steering painting toward abstraction and influencing later artists’ explorations of a non-figurative world.
- Henri Matisse 1869-1954
Paul Klee 1879-1940 Painter, theorist and art teach, he was one of the most important artists of the 20th century.
- Kasimir Malevich 1878-1935 Russian painter who wanted to pry art away from real-life objects.
- Franz Marc 1880-1916 With Vasily Kandinsky, he was a founder of the Blaue Reiter group of artists.
- Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 1880-1938 One of his most famous images examines big-city life in Berlin; his Potsdancer Platz is a painting that captures the bustle of the metropolis.
- Pablo Picasso 1881-1973 “I wanted to be a painter, and I became Picasso.” – Pable Picasso
- Edward Hopper 1882-1967 To many people, one name above all represents American modernism.
- Marc Chagall 1887-1985 Combined aspects of the stylistic achievement of the Paris avant-garde with naïve, poetic memories of his Hasidic Jewish background in Belarus.
- Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968 French artists remembers as being a stimulus to the fasat-developing American art scene of the earl 20th century.
- Georgia O’Keeffe 1887-1989 launched a veritable revolution to still-life painting in the 1920s in the US with her outsized, magnified flower pictures.
- Giorgio de Chirico 1888-1978 “If a work of art is to be truly immortal, it must go beyond of human nature. It can have neither reason nor logic.”
- Egon Schiele 1890-1918 his daring nudes, unusual at the time for their frankness, shocked many of his contemporaries. Considered one of the most important painters in Vienna.
- Max Ernest 1891-1976 Painter, sculptor, draftsman and poet, he was the most important representatives of Dadaism and a key player in the development of Surrealist painting.
Joan Miro 1893-1983 extremely versatile, imaginative and productive artist. Adopted avant-garde innovation, can’t be easily classified as any of the major modernist art movements.
- Rene Magritte 1898-1967 surrealist paintings are an ironic reversal of he usual order of things, bestowing a lost magic onto modernity.
- Henry Moore 1898-1986 English sculptor set new standards for 20th century sculpture with his bronze, wooden and stone figures.
- Mark Rothko 1903-1971 is one of the pioneers of the Color Field Paintings and one of the most important representatives of Abstract Expressionism.
- Salvador Dali 1904-1989 “I believed in surrealism as if it constituted the Tables of the Law.” -Dali
- Frida Kahlo 1907-1954 “They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my reality.” Kahlo
- Francis Bacon 1909-1992 His vivid images depicted fear, suffering, and violence, reflecting the horrors of the 20th century as much as individual psychological fears. They led to a rethinking of contemporary views of representational painting.
- Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010 “all my work in the past 50 ears, all my subjects have found their inspiration in my childhood. My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” Bourgeous, 1994
- Jackson Pollock 1912-1956 Using the technique of “action painting” Pollock made the cancas his field of action.
- Joseph Beuys 1921-1986 Artistic legacy is a complex mix of installations, sculptural works, watercolours, drawings, multiples, and writings, all of which blur conventional boundaries between genres.
- Lucian Freud 1922-2011 Abstraction was the dominant art form when he started his career, yet he chose a path in figurative painting.
- Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 Like Andy Warhol, he was a key figure in the development of Pop Art.
- Andy Warhol 1928-1987 a key figure of the Pop Art movement, consumed popular culture and adopted its imagery. His work explores the omnipresent, often-manipulative nature of popular culture in the 1960s.
- Cy Twombly 1928-2008 American painter, draftsman, sculptor, photographer, and object artist he is one of the most important representatives of Abstract Expressionism.
- Jasper Johns 1930-2006 His pictures of letters, numbers, targets and flags introduced a new kind of subject matter and clear, simple imagery into art. His work paved the way not only for Pop Art but also for Minimalism.
Niki de Saint Phalle 1930-2002 “Niki’s work demands that we ignore all conventional subdivisions in art, eg. Between painting, sculpture and architecture, sophisticated and unpretentious, permanent and transient, even conventionally appropriate and inappropriate. Instead, its simply fun.” From Praemium Imperiale sculpture prize, 2000
- Gerhard Richter 1932- sees his work as an exploration of the traditional medium of painting, questioning its relevance in today’s media-dominated society. His work combines both representational and abstract images, and its diversity is a constant source of surprise.
- David Hockney 1937- often cited as one of the most important artists of the Pop Movement although he doesn’t consider himself a Pop artists.
- Chuck Close 1940- His huge portraits based on photographs have helped revive the art of portraiture. His absolute focus in his choice of subject matter is paired with an openness in his working approach, as he has explored a wide range of techniques throughout his careers.
- Anselm Kiefer 1945- symbols and myths of German history are recurring motifs, especially the rise of the Nazis and their continued effect after World War II. He has become one of the best-known and same time most controversial contemporary artists in Germany.
- Jeff Koons 1955 – became famous in the mid-1980s as part of generation of artists that explored the importance of art in a media – saturated era. With his ambition to “communicate with the masses,” he draws on the visual vocabularies of the advertising, marketing and entertainment industries.
- Jean-Michel Basquiat 1960- The Neo-Expressionism artists combines African elements with febrile icons of New York’s street culture. From the beginning of his career, he switched with ease between diverse contexts such as the graffiti subculture, the gallery scene and major exhibition venues.
- Damien Hirst 1965 – His works are provocative to the point of discomfort.
- Matthew Barney 1967 – works includes not only his best known, multi-part Cremaster films, but also independent videos, drawings, photographs, installations and sculptures that elude definitive classification. According to the New York Times, he is the “most important American artist of his generation.”