Master Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago (edited by James N. Wood)

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“Master” is a term thrown around liberally by art museums in their catalogues, but in this case, there are enough top notch artworks featured among the 149 presented in this coffee table book that I guess it’s warranted. I mean, they have Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, American Gothic by Grant Wood and one of Monet’s water lily paintings to mention just a few worthies. Most paintings are presented large enough to do artistic studies from and each has a 300-word write-up that illuminates without any whiff of pretension. We are talking a Chicago gallery here after all, not New York.

That the museum (and this book) divides its collection into three sections, European, American and 20th Century art is a bit arbitrary (Degas is in the European section, but  Matisse is in the 20th Century section with all the, in my humble opinion, not so accomplished paint flingers high on concept but lacking in as much craft). And Georgia O’Keeffe is stuck in the 20th Century and can’t hang with her older American buddies.

Still, that’s just me quibbling. A handsome book and it’s great to flick through if , like me, you find yourself unable to go to the museum in person.

No. 9 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2019.

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Patrick Sherriff publishes a monthly newsletter highlighting good fiction about Japan and featuring an original painting or sketch. He lives in Abiko, Japan, with his wife and two daughters.

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