Read: "On Painting," Leon Battista Alberti

BLOGonpaintingWEB I recently finished reading "Dell Pittura, (On Painting, 1435)" by Leon Battista Alberti.  This particular version I read was published by Yale University Press, 1966.

Alberti was born in Genoa in 1404 and died in Rome in 1472.  He was the archetype of the Renaissance's 'universal man,' as he was a master of many respectable trades, including painting.

His book "Dell Pittura, (On Painting)" revolutionized the history of art with his pioneering treatise on the theory of art.  It had immediate and profound influence on Italian Renaissance artists including Ghiberti, Fra Angelico and Veneziano and on later figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, and remains a compelling theory of art.

In his prologue, Alberti states that his work consists of three books: 'the first, all mathematics, concerning the roots in nature which are the source of this delightful and most noble art. The second book puts the art in the hand of the artist, distinguishing its parts and demonstrating all. The third introduces the artist to the means and the end, the ability and desire of acquiring perfect skill and knowledge in painting.'

If you are looking for a great resource on painting that was read and respected by the great masters of art, I highly recommend Alberti's "On Painting."


Historic Read

I recently finished reading a book entitled, "Lives of the Artists (Volume I)" by Giorgio Vasari - a collection of biographies of Italian Renaissance artists. The particular version I read was published by Penguin Group 1965. Vasari was an Italian Renaissance painter and architect who achieved success in his own time and was a friend and contemporary of many of the most celebrated Renaissance artists. Despite his talents in these fields, Vasari is most well known for this collection of Italian Renaissance biographies, and the book is considered one of the most important contemporary primary sources of the Renaissance.

Vasari was the first to outline the progression and influential theory of Renaissance art from the years 1200 through 1600. In the book, Vasari discusses twenty artists, though my favorite chapters are on the artists Giotto, Brunelleschi, Raphael and Michelangelo. In each of the chapters, Vasari lists the work that the artist did, who it was for, where it is located, as well as the background and history of the artist and their family. In the chapters on more prominent artists, Vasari goes into further detail on their lives. In these chapters, he provides anecdotes and glimpses into the artist's personality, which were some of my favorite sections of the book.

"Lives of the Artists" is an invaluable classic to add to your collection if you are interested in art history.


Insightful Read

I recently finished reading a book by Sarah Thornton entitled, Seven Days in the Art World. It was an insightful read breaking down the mysteries of the art world. Thornton writes her book from the perspective of a sociologist, which offers a unique perspective from the more common narrative of an art historian or theorist. This book brings to light key players in the art community while investigating seven different events that occur in the art world, including Christie's Auction House, a critique at the California Institute of the Arts, the Basel Art Fair, the competition behind the Turner Prize, the studio of Takashi Murakami, the creative process at Artforum magazine and the Venice Biennale. While exploring and introducing the reader to these events, the author highlights the vast differences and separation of various cultures within the art community. The following quote describes this nicely: "... I don't see the art world as a system or smooth-functioning machine but as a bunch of squabbling subcultures, which embrace very different definitions of art and often feel a measure of hostility toward each other. Many of the chapters are not only a day in the life of a different institution but a day spent with a different social group or subculture." p.258


I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the backdrop of the art world and how defined or undefined it is.

Thornton, Sarah (2009).Seven Days in the Art World. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, NY