Finally the long awaited collection of Angus McBride's military history illustrations has arrived in a quality, hard cover book. I say collection but it is really more of a sampler of the unbelievably prolific McBride's work, as he has turned out in excess of 700 paintings for Osprey Publications alone and this book contains but 45 of them.
The book is hard cover with a dust jacket; 9 1/2 x 11; 144 pages; good quality paper with a built in, ribbon book mark. Very nice.
The first few pages are devoted to a brief biography followed by an interview with McBride in which he discusses working techniques, the problems of historical illustration, etc.
Now, as Angus might say, to our muttons. The paintings range from Ancient Egypt to WW II, all, of course, with a military orientation but by no means all battle scenes. Actually, less than half are depictions of battle. In contrast, there is a wonderful piece in which a dismounted Armenian cavalryman (leading an obviously nervous horse), a monk and a serf coaxing a very recalcitrant donkey, are crossing a boiling mountain stream on a rickety, wooden bridge, all against a soft and peaceful woodland setting; the McBride touch. There are several pages with just a single figure against white with details of equiptment and clothing to the side, and they are splendid. Among these, the Visigoth Warrior is a particular favorite of mine. Also, the ladies are not excluded from this book. Queen Zenobia is featured in a plate as is a Mixtec Queen and there is also a plate of WACs, WAVES and women Marines.
There are 34 single plates and 11 double page spreads. The layouts for the single page paintings have the reproduction on the right hand page faced by a description of the piece and an enlarged detail which can offer a close up view of the artist's working methods. The description and details of the double page spreads are on the two pages preceeding the painting. The cropping of the single plates is sometimes extreme but the trade off is that the viewer gets a closer look of the main elements of the work. Vignettes are taken right to the edge of the page. You literally get a full page of art. Devoted fans of Angus may wonder at some of the selections chosen for reproduction in this book but even the somewhat questionable choices will offer up much material to be studied by artists, both professional and aspiring, as well as to be admired by the layman.
The quality of the reproductions is for the most part excellent. Sharp and very colorful. As some British friends of my might say, "brilliant." A very few may be a little on the dark side but not really objectionable. Unfortunately one piece, The Battle of Hastings, is poorly reproduced (particularly in regard to the color balance) and even worse is the large detail of it at the beginning of the chapter. For some unknown reason the publishers chose to reproduce this one piece from a print rather than the original transparency and, particularly in the much enlarged, chapter heading detail, this is painfully obvious. This reproduction does the artist no favors. Happily, it stands alone in the book.
Overall I give this book a high recommendation. Military buffs and artists will find it especially appealing but my recommendation also extends to anyone who appreciates fine, quality art work. It is an excellent book.
Finally, we can hope, considering the volume of McBride's output, that there will be a Vol. II, a Vol. III, etc. Better yet, a larger format with two or three times as many pages; a proportionate increase in the volume of artwork; perhaps a few foldouts; a slipcase; in other words, a true "coffee table" book. Now there's an idea!