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on 25 November 2006
This is perhaps the best compilation book I've ever seen. Clearly the editor made a tremendous effort to include all of the expected greats we all know and love (Mona Lisa, Haystacks, etc), but also added a few lesser known works that make the book both entertaining and interesting for art lovers of all levels.

I have this book on my coffee table and everyone who comes in the room gravitate immediately toward it and flip through for a few minutes. A great gift, includes fantastic works and great (short!) descriptions. Couldn't recommend it more....
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on 13 February 2010
The best thing about this book is the selection of paintings. No-one is going to agree with all the selections (too much mediocre 19th century work for me) but they cover an impressively wide range of dates, styles and nationalities, and certainly introduced me to artists I was unfamiliar with.

My main criticism would be of the text. Although the book is by Stephen Farthing and Geoff Dyer, they contribute only the preface and the introduction; the comment on each painting is by one of around ninety other contributors. There is no indication of how the contributors were chosen but they range from a professor of art through a professor of gastroenterology to a semi-professional clarinettist and a web-designer. Nothing wrong with that, a wide range of viewpoints could be interesting, but one might have expected the editing process to have removed the more obvious errors.

In "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" by Carl Friedrich, the central figure is said to be looking out at a "frightening, raging sea"; the whole point of the picture is that he is standing on a mountaintop looking down on the world through banks of cloud. The labourers digging up the road in Ford-Madox-Brown's "Work" are described as "naval workers"; presumably the writer has been confused by the fact that 19th century labourers were sometimes called "navigators" or "navvies" because they worked on building the canal network. Other contributors show that they do not know the difference between a cross and a crucifix, or the distinction between a fresco and a mural. None of these things are overly important in themselves, but they do raise doubts about any unfamiliar fact one comes across in the text.

The book is well worth looking at for the interesting and wide-ranging selection of paintings (5 stars) but it could have been so much better with a bit more care put into the text (2 stars)
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The concept behind this book is an intriguing one: If you had seen most of the best paintings in the world, which 1001 would you recommend that others see if at all possible? My initial reaction was that there probably aren't 1001 paintings that I would recommend to everyone else.

With that perspective in mind, I first read through the book to identify which paintings would be on my list. I came up with 72. Almost all of those were on my mental list when I started reading the book. I was also missing about 100 of my favorites, but few of the artists were omitted. So if I had been new to paintings and became familiar with the 65 artists who did the 72 paintings, I would have eventually uncovered almost all of the other 100. That experience confirmed my impression that this book would be of most value to those who have seen relatively few great paintings and want to get a sense of what they like.

The images were quite well done for such small reproductions. Most paintings are represented on one page (a few are two to a page) with the minimum size being about one inch by two inches. But the printing was done well enough that you get a decent idea of the painting. I have seen more than 600 of these works in person and found that the reproductions often looked better than the originals: So don't be too disappointed when you see the real thing. Naturally, others look at lot better in person: You cannot capture the Sistine Chapel's paintings very well in a small image, for example.

The nice surprise for me was to find that the book contains works from private collections, several of which were new to me. This made me feel like I was visiting a blockbuster traveling show, especially when the works were by some of my favorite artists.

One of the most impressive aspects of the book was its equal emphasis over 1400 to the present with some representation even earlier than that. As a result, you get a good cross-section of different styles among Western artists (other artists are underrepresented, as they are in major Western museums).

Those who want to travel to see these works will be pleased to see that their locations are noted. There is a missed opportunity to index the works by museum to make trip planning easier. But most good museums today have extensive online catalogs of images that you can scan to plan what you want to see in advance. Simply jot down museums you should visit, but haven't been to yet. Then go online to see which art there will appeal to you.

I would love to see someone take this same concept and apply it to each century of paintings, sculptures, and graphic art.

Take a good look!
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on 10 August 2009
1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die (1001 Must See Before You Die)

This is an excellent book. The summaries for each painting and artist are concise and interesting. Whilst I would not want some of the selected works hanging on my wall they are still thought provoking. The organisation of the book is good and I would recommend that you do not skip the preface.
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on 3 February 2009
This was a Christmas present for my wife -who is absolutely delighted with it; she comments:-
"A most comprehensive selection of 1001 paintings, with an illustration and helpful comments on each page with suggestions of what to look for in the painting."
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on 22 April 2010
Read Geoff Dyers preface first. This makes you want to begin an odyssey to visit all the great galleries of the world and tick off the list. This is a great reference document which I will keep to hand for years to come.
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on 12 April 2007
I agree with the previous viewer in that the informaiton within the book is great and covers a wide scope of painings and is an interesting book to dip in and out of.

However, whilst each picture does denote which gallery it is shown at, I would have like there to have been a summary/list of which pictures appear at which galleries provided somewhere, so that when I go to one I can make sure I cover all the important pictures, or make the most of a trip abroad by getting around the key galleries.
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on 14 December 2010
I have been looking to purchase this book for some time but have found the cost to be prohibitive, purhasing this book on Amazon made it affordable & I would say I have definitely not been disappointed with this book.
I found it very informative plus it gave me pleasant memories of art work I have seen & also given me further incentive to see additional art work contained within this book
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on 6 August 2012
read 1001 paintings to see before you die well actually 996 paintings! since this library copy had been hacked about and was missing pages and paintings mainly from the fifteenth century section suffered from the layout of one or two paintings and artists to a page and colourfully went from 18th dynasty egypt to the turner prize more detailed post 1950 and in the 2000's and for a great painting book few great masters more of a world view from the start this book included art from china, india and japan but in the main still life portrait landscape mixed up feelings with paint text was a stumbling block often the same biographical text for two different paintings by same artist and less on the art in question seemed to lack detail on anything not in US museums or not from a European artist many of whom in the nineteenth century period seemed not the best to choose from although nice to see painters of big diorama historical battle scenes alongside van gogh and Renoir
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Chosen by a number of art critics, curators, artists and art collectors, the 1001 paintings span a time period from prehistory to the present day; the chronological bias is not suprisingly towards the modern era. This means a little too much of the pretentious trash with no artistic merit whatsoever which we see all too much of these days entering the list.

So for example we have Barnet Newman's "Vir Heroicus Sublimis" (a red rectangle with a few vertical lines), Ad Reinhardt's "Abstract Painting Diptych" (two featureless black squares forming a rectangle) and Jiro Yoshihara's "To Martha's Memory" (a slightly irregular white annulus on a black background).

Not sure why Jackson Pollock should merit three and Rothko two of their self-similar pieces. We also get Richard Hamilton's "The Citizen" (a picture of an IRA dirty protester depicted as a Christ-like figure) and Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary" (using elephant dung and cuttings from porn mags, thus guaranteed to offend, undoubtedly intentionally so). As Basil Fawlty would scornfully remark, "Oh, *very* modern, *very* socialist".

A good introduction to pictorial art and a starting point for further discovery. Could be even better with a few excisions to be replaced with pieces of greater artistic merit (and indeed artistic skill - now there's a novelty).
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