IoS Books of the Year 2012: Art

If you hate landscapes, try Cézanne's big apple

'A picture must not be invented, it must be felt," claimed the 19th-century Romantic painter Casper David Friedrich. Emotions were a particular strength of Friedrich's and in a new blockbuster of a retrospective hardback monograph he certainly makes his feelings known.

Casper David Friedrich by Johannes Grave (Prestel, £80) shows the German's oeuvre to be focused on the allegorical meeting of Man and Nature. This monumental slip-cased volume illustrates with beautiful reproductions all the drama and spiritual contemplation of his work. Grave follows Freidrich's journey from Greifswald to Dresden and from his Sturm und Drang origins to epic landscapes and on to the late melancholy oils completed in his reclusive old age. Along the way we discover that his brooding themes were a reaction to the slipping morality of his times, a call to reject growing materialism for a new spirituality. Could there be a more timely message for today?

Heaven only knows what Friedrich would have made of the changing face of artistic expression in the century to come. In Art of the 20th Century (£27.99) Taschen has produced an exceptional overview of the painting, sculpture, new media, and photography that defined an indefinable era. From Fauvism to formaldehyde via Minimalism, Conceptualism and Surrealism, this book gives you the theories, players and timelines, and lets you decide whether you think it's art or nonsense.

One of the few geniuses to bridge the two centuries and their disparate artistic approaches was Paul Cézanne, the Post-Impressionist from Provence. In Cézanne: A Life (Profile, £30), Alex Danchev has produced a new view of an old subject. A little like Cézanne accomplished. "I will astonish Paris with an apple," the artist declared. And he did. His innovative deconstructions bridged the gap between Impressionism and Modernism, an achievement made all the more impressive, as this book highlights, by Cezanne's outsider status and nagging self doubt.

In Search of Rex Whistler by Hugh and Mirabelle Cecil (Frances Lincoln, £40) treads the line between picture book and full-blown biography so well that it should be a template for art publishers everywhere. Whistler is a woefully neglected artist and this beautifully presented book does him a great service. He may have been a bright young thing of the inter-war years, but he diligently avoided squandering his youth. By the time he died in France in the wake of D-Day, aged 39, he had succeeded at book illustration, theatrical design, portraiture and had raised mural painting to new heights.

Eric Ravilious, another doomed Second World War artist, was in eerie mode as he explored the Allied underwater campaign though a series of 10 dream-like lithographs, now published in a handsome volume entitled Submarine (Mainstone, £35). With contextualising essays by James Russell, this series brings to the surface the very peculiar, tinned life of Royal Navy submariners.

Readers can take a less foreboding dip in Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies (Particular Books, £20). Part swimming memoir, part art project, this is a big happy splash of a book. Long before becoming a New York Times art director, Shapton was a swimming protégé back home in Canada. Here, she catalogues the pleasures of the pool in prose that ripples with visual imagery, and punctuates the text with photographic portraits of vintage swimsuits, abstract studies of public baths and, best of all, inky-blue watercolours of people blissfully taking the plunge.

Adrian Tomine is another adoptive Manhattanite with a unique eye. In New York Drawings (Faber, £16.99) he has revisited "a decade of covers, comics, illustrations and sketches from The New Yorker". To call Tomine a cartoonist is like calling Yehudi Menuhin a fiddler. By Tomine's hand a single frame turns into a short story: in "Read-Handed", a book shop owner spots his neighbour accepting a delivery from Amazon; in "Winter Break", an ice cream van is snowed in by Central Park. Romantic, thoughtful, observant and emotionally involving, his images possess a distinctly American poetic aesthetic. Put another way, they are pictures that are felt, not invented.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game