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5.0 out of 5 stars lovely book at bargain price, 12 April 2014
Mr. D. Turner - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zurbaran (Hardcover)
I had seen a few examples of the Artists work and took a chance on this book as the price was very reasonable.The quality of the reproductions is very good,as is the informative text.A real bargain.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An artist who has fallen out of fashion, 10 Jan 2014
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zurbaran (Hardcover)
My edition of this book was published in 1989 by Ediciones Polígrafa, S. A., in an English translation by Richard-Lewis Rees [Rees Richard-Lewis?]. It has the same number of pages as the 2008 edition with a reproduction of the rather sickly sentimental "The Girl Virgin Asleep", 1625-30, on the front cover instead of the trussed "Lamb of God", 1635-40.

Francisco Zurbarán, 1598-1664, is widely regarded as the best known 17th-century Spanish artist after Velázquez but his works have never been as popular, perhaps because of their religious focus that frequently shows a single figure undergoing agonising and ascetic flagellation of the flesh.

In this book, Santiago Alcolea considers the artist's life in four chronological periods that are characterized by changes in his style: `The Formative Years and First Works [1617-1629]', `The Period of Plenitude [1629/30-1640]', `The Period between [1641-1658]' and `The Final Period [1658-1664]'. Following these is a Chronology, a Select Bibliography', 112 full-colour illustrations and a List of Illustrations.

The author explains that scholarship into Zurbarán's life and work was still fragmentary in 1989 with many issues unresolved, such as the artist's training and influences, the dates of many of his paintings, their iconography and symbolism, and variations in his treatment of light, brushstrokes and palette.

The period 1617-1626 represents something of a shadowy period; with only some 20 works known to date from this period. The earliest works reproduced are two groups, "Miraculous Cure of the Blessed Reginaud of Orléans" and "The Virgin Appears to the Monks of Soriano", both 1626-27, in which difficulties can be seen in the artist's arrangement of figures and their proportions. In contrast, the single figure in "Christ Crucified", 1627, exerts a significant psychological impact on the viewer. In two slightly later canvases commissioned for Seville, "St Bonaventura at the Council of Lyon" and "Death of S t Bonaventura", both 1629-30, the uniformity of facial features detracting from the works' impact.

The artist's continuing inability to create a group work that was greater than the sum of its individual figures may have led him to explore alternative motifs, including "Still Life", 1633 and individual figures before a celestial landscape, as in two versions of the "Immaculate Virgin" painted between 1625-30. By the end of the 1630s, the artist had finally resolved his difficulties with group, "The Shepherds, Workshop", 1638, and "Circumcision", 1639.

Zurbarán's ability to represent the folds of white habits is shown in "Blessed John Houghton", 1637-39. "Fra Gonzalo de Illescas, Bishop of Cordova", 1639, shows the light on a still life of books and letters, with the individual whiskers of the Bishop's beard catching the same light, whilst "Jesus Appears before Fr Andrés de Salméron", 1939, contrasts the material nature of the friar and the supernatural appearance of Jesus from a radiant but diffused background. "St Francis", 1631-40, reverts to the artist's single figure format that he had exploited in works devoted to individual saints, but adds a chiaroscuro shadow from the saint's cowl.

After 1641, the artist's austere style no longer found favour with religious organisations and individual patrons, and his reputation declined, partly because of his unwillingness or inability to innovate. During this period, the artist's productivity declined [some 200 works can be ascribed unambiguously to the period] and, to aggravate matters, many of the works that he completed are considered to have been `mass-produced' in the studio.

The final period is the most difficult to date with only some 30 works identified with any certainty. Contrary to widespread belief, at his death the artist appears to have overcome the financial difficulties that had long bedeviled him and his family.

This remains a good introduction to an artist whose work is not to everyone's liking.
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Zurbaran by Santiago Alcolea (Hardcover - 6 Jun 2008)
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