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78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Simon Schama
This is vintage Simon Schama. I was transfixed during all of his excellent series on the History of Britain a few years ago and as a result bought and read the three books that accompanied that series. Simon Schama has a wonderful knack of writing in the same droll, ironic, knowing style that he uses to present his TV series. The style of the writing really draws the...
Published on 3 Nov 2006 by Mike J. Wheeler

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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Book is good, but I was displease by the lack of comunication from the sender.
The book is in good conditions and was nicely raped. In brown paper, rather then a box. And once the package was actually sent it came very quickly.
However when the arrival date came the package had not been send. I have sent two emails to the sender and received no reply. I received an email from amazon saying they were getting in contact with the sender. Soon...
Published 23 months ago by bodean


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78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Simon Schama, 3 Nov 2006
By 
Mike J. Wheeler (Kingswinford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
This is vintage Simon Schama. I was transfixed during all of his excellent series on the History of Britain a few years ago and as a result bought and read the three books that accompanied that series. Simon Schama has a wonderful knack of writing in the same droll, ironic, knowing style that he uses to present his TV series. The style of the writing really draws the reader in just as Schama the TV presenter pulls the viewer into the subject.

The book itself very closely follows the TV series which is currently being broadcast. OK so this is not a huge intellectual tome and neither was "History of Britain". But to me this is irrelevant. What Schama is really good at is popularising a subject that some of us were previously unfamiliar with. Those who are really into art in a big way will probably know the material anyway, but for those of us who aren't experts Simon Schama provides an excellent gateway into the subjects he cares about. If we are stimulated to read more then all the better, there are plenty of other sources for those who want more detail.

The book is, as you'd expect from a BBC publication, beautifully illustrated. It's a nice read, never demanding but always enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on David and Rothko as I knew next to nothing about them whereas Rembrandt, Turner, and Picasso are a little more familiar.

This would make an ideal Christmas present. A good book to accompany an excellent series.
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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars powerful stuff, 18 Oct 2006
This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
Although this has a `TV tie-in` feel to it (especially it`s glossy, superficial cover art), it`s a sumptuous book to handle and look through, with pristine reproductions from the 8 artists discussed. Schama uses his rough-house, slangy style (which could occasionally be wearing were it not for the man`s obvious enthusiasm backed by learning) to the full here, which suits his approach, which is to awaken readers to the sinewy, troublesome, uncontainable aspects of great paintings and sculptures, whether Caravaggio`s grubby but gorgeously lit urchins, Bernini`s orgasmic saints or Rothko`s grave blocks of ecstatic colour. This is, I suppose, art criticism-lite - but the better for it. There is, thankfully, not too much `interpretation` (for example, discerning what a character in a painting may be thinking or feeling, which dear old Sister Wendy, among others, loves to do, and which tabloid-ish practice usually drives me to distraction) and he certainly gets one excited about art, making you want to get on down to your nearest gallery and grab some eye-food. (Sorry, his style`s catching.)

All art is for the people - you and me - and Schama realises this, as did most artists worth the name. (It`s always struck me as oddly absurd that we go to `art galleries` to see hung rows of paintings etc. in hushed formal settings.) This is a timely tome, and I was glad to learn more about David, Bernini and Rothko, the latter leaping up further in my estimation. It`s understandable that he has become the poster-darling, but his chapter suggests why he might resonate with so many people. `Power of Art` is apt. A powerful, whirlwind story lurks within this coffee-table-covered book. Four-and-a-half stars, I`d say.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is so much more to art that just paint and canvas!, 28 Jan 2007
This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
After being totally addicted to the BBC series, I was given this book as a present by my long-suffering partner and I can honestly say it's one of the best coffee table/non-fiction books I've ever owned. Schama is an amazingly engaging writer, he has you there, focused on everything he says - you take in the information - just like the best teacher you ever had at school - you just cant help it. If school had been half as interesting as this I would have had a degree in art!! And as a post script, I dragged the afore mentioned, long suffering partner round the Louvre for nearly four hours tracking down the paintings in this book and he had to listen to me waxing lyrical about the artist/painting - OK, he's probably questioning the day he bought this book for me but you know what I think I actually have him interested in art as more than just a piece of canvas and paint!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully printed and written, 17 Feb 2007
This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
This is a delightful book: the BBC has produced a real gem. While the format sems to be caught between two stools (part coffee-table book, part bed-side book), it manages to capture two types of reader: the browser for the sensational prints and close-ups of the paintings, and the reader: for the snappy prose of Schama. You can hear is slightly derogatory tone coming off the pages. he has managed to construct good stories around the painters and situate their work within their lives to give the book a bit of momentum. Hats off.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Godsend, 13 Oct 2007
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
Often art books can be rather highbrow and aimed at people who already know what they're talking about. The joy of Schama's work is that it is readable, interesting and understandable to the average person without ever being patronising or just plain dumb. Doing a course on art history I had to tackle the paintings of Mark Rothko, which is not easy for a beginner. Schama's fine chapter on Rothko gave me a way in to start looking at and actually making sense of the paintings. The chapters on David and Pollock were equally illuminating. The illustrations are of an excellent quality and a good size, so you can really get up close to the pictures and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous and revealing, 1 July 2008
By 
Laura Hughes (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
I loved the TV series and I loved the book!

This has beautiful illustrations and tells the story of the lives of the different artists in an involving and familiar way. It is incredibly accessible for anyone with even a passing interest in art, and has resulted in me studying art history because I found it all so fascinating.

Schama's passion for the subject shines through, and this makes the whole book a joy to read. An excellent introduction to art!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ecto-Plasmic Shifty-Shapes, 16 Aug 2011
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
Red and white is a favourite colour combination to me: not the blood and ivory as portrayed on the knife that killed Marat, but rather the sense that the red corrupts and stains the innocence of the white. They are also the colours of Schama's book cover, and of the associated TV series. Corrupted innocence is not Schama's subject - though it appears as an undertone in some of his narrative - but instead he seeks to spill the blood of art on the carpet of white naivety. Art has this power, don't you know.

In his introduction, Schama writes how his `Power of Art' "features eight of these moments of self-dramatization, when the artist, under extreme pressure, undertakes a work of supremely ambitious scope in which his own most essential beliefs are embodied. All of them are directly personal testimonies ... They are works that seek to change the world." Steady! This is therefore not just a programme of merely eight `great' paintings: there is a method in Schama's choice. But is it all mere hype? Well, some. (The quotation marks around the word `great' are a clue.)

I was never a great fan of Caravaggio, but Schama is certainly highly persuasive. Of Bernini, how could you not but admire his supreme skill. And Schama is right to say Rembrandt's subjects "don't pose; they live." For all three of these artists, Schama's is a tale of precociousness, a scaling of heights, followed by a fall and the chance for one last magnificent comeback. The tales of the later artists are different.

Of David - all "blood and sobbing" - Schama asks us to question the purpose of art in different times; "Can modern secular painting have the conversionary power of Christian masterpieces?" Of course, we need to get our minds into not only a pre-cinematic age but a pre-photographic one too here, a mindset where a painting really could result in "a sudden outbreak of wet hankies in the Salon." The same pertains for Turner, of course, one of my favourite artists, but there were no wet hankies when he showed his `Slave Ship'. And for Schama to describe it as "quite simply the greatest union of moral power and poetic vision that British art ever accomplished" is - in my view - absurd. To give him his due, Schama fears this statement might be viewed as hype and asks us to go to Boston to see it. (By the way, Schama is wrong to say it was the Chartists rioting in "1830 or thereabouts": it was Captain Swing.)

Schama's selling of the greatness of Van Gogh - "the pilgrim in search of heaven on earth" - is unconvincing. I am with the very man that Schama describes as being "averse to the confessional outpourings of the crucified ego, who believes that art should never primarily be about the artist, ... that the confrontational expressionism that van Gogh inaugurated was the worst turn that modern painting could have taken." But van Gogh's landscapes are a different matter, but when Schama dramatises the darkening of the artist's skies over his wheatfields in July 1890, I could not help thinking that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Schama fails to convince with Picasso either, despite trying his hardest to sell "the departure from resemblance". As for Rothko's "ectoplasmic shifty-shapes", a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen about the emperor's new clothes springs to mind. I may not like much of Schama's concept of artistic genius, but there's no doubting his perceptiveness. Take Rothko's subway series: "The real action is going on where the colours themselves seem to have a life of their own unplugged from what they're supposed to represent." Dead right. But when Schama also writes of Rothko's work, "The vertical bars that existed in dialogue with the horizontals become gradually edged out of the picture field, as if consumed by the horizontals or pressed beneath them into a sub-field of immanent light", then I can only desperately hanker after something by Piper, Nash, or Spencer.

For Schama to say that Rothko "had become the maker of paintings as powerful, complicated and breathtaking as anything by Rembrandt and Turner" - for this reviewer - is simply laughable. It's not that I don't `get' the philosophical underpinnings that Schama expresses so eloquently; rather it is just that Rothko answers negatively to that old chestnut: `Is it art?' No, his is a psycho-philosophy of colour. Indeed, Schama makes play of the artist's own demands over the "circumstances of eventual display" of his pictures: can they not stand alone as art? Instead, Rothko's work reminds me of Turner's own basic colour-washes: they are the support for the painting, not the painting itself.

I seem to have moved from a review of this book to a review of the artists. In a sense this crystallises the very success of Schama's `Power of Art'. It's difficult not to imitate Schama's own method of delivery, for he writes just as he talks. In this case imitation is definitely a form of flattery, for I have much time for Schama's style. Instead of lecturing us from above, he carries us along in a kindly comradely way, as if to say `But you knew that anyway, didn't you?' Schama has a facility and felicity with words, of course, and a quirky way of making us see things in a new light, sometimes in a radically new light: of Bernini's throne of St Peter in the Vatican, Schama sees "a holy lilo bobbing on a cushion of celestial helium." Schama brilliantly reduces the contemporary criticism of Turner's history paintings down to the aphorism, `Never mind the bodies, bring on the Grand Canal.'

The book is handsomely illustrated with the works of the artists involved. But the restrictions of the size of the printed page means you will need to get the DVD - or the Internet - to get up close. But the benefit of the printed word is that, "inevitably, and happily, the book offered space for reflection on works that couldn't be accommodated within the television hour." Best of all, of course, is to get both.

A "brief, selective, subjective and opinionated" list of books for further reading brings up the book's rear, together with a good index.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Simon says, 24 Jan 2014
By 
John Coffey - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
This has everything we've come to expect, effortless erudition, blokey eloquence and deft turn of phrase. It's a succession of elegantly written, accessible essays on various artists over the centuries. It feels a bit safe though, like a comfy canter over ground already well trodden over and grooved with received opinion. I wish he'd tackled Rafael instead of the more obvious Carravagio, Poussin or Ingres instead of David, or say, Brancusi instead of Piccasso. If Simon had stretched himself a little more it could have been an even better book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Schama's Power on Art, 14 Aug 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
What made the television series and the book so gripping is that it is the personal journey of Simon Schama depicted in both; paintings experienced first and the biographical, historical and context discovered later. It is all told with passion, enthusiasm and humour. His first encounter with Mark Rothko, taking "The wrong, right turning" in the Tate is just the beginning of an engaging tale.
He brings the others alive off the page with the same detailed research, interest and lucid writing one has come to expect from him.

Highly recommended and it will encourage you to follow in his footsteps - intellectually and literally through the Tate and other galleries.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 13 July 2011
By 
D. J. Andrews "David Andrews" (Keele, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Simon Schama's Power of Art (Hardcover)
"great art has terrible manners" Schama exclaims at the start of this book and my word does he prove it. The David, Turner and Rembrandt sections are the best and you feel that although he has clearly been castrated by the editor on word limits we are getting the nuggets of his knowledge on each. The Rothko section shows a deeply personal experiance of art.

I would reccomend the hardcover as it comes with beautiful illustrations of all the paintings and high quality pictures of the Bernini sculptures
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Simon Schama's Power of Art
Simon Schama's Power of Art by Simon Schama (Hardcover - 28 Sep 2006)
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