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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful Catalog for Finding What You Like, 15 Sept. 2007
This review is from: 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die (Hardcover)
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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Donald Mitchell
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