If you follow Susie Hodge on Twitter (@susiehodge), you’ll know that she’s mastered the art of the pithy fact-pill. The same skill is evident in this rather beautiful and keenly-priced book, with nice large illustrations and two or three line captions that tell you all you need to know about each image without going into over-much detail and analysis. If you wanted an in-depth discussion of the content and relevance of every one of Klimt’s works, this wouldn’t be for you. However, if you prefer to reach your own conclusions and then go on to further research if you feel it’s needed, then this is perfect.
It’s easy to grab a handful of illustrations of an artist’s work, put some kind of simple structure round them and make a book of it. Publishers have been doing it for decades (indeed, arguably, since the invention of the half-tone block). The difficult bit is to add the right amount of critical apparatus, to group and order the illustrations and thus come up with something more than a quick fix job. Susie Hodge is nothing if not prolific, but with this comes a great deal of experience and she’s now the person to turn to if what you want is a quick guide.
There’s a thorough but not over-written introduction that tell you who Klimt was, when and where he worked and how he fits into the general pattern of history. The rest of the book is devoted to a catholic selection of works, grouped both to show his development as an artist as well as by subject matter. The big, iconic stuff is here, but so too are the smaller and lesser-known works, as well as a very generous collection of the landscapes, which will be a true revelation.
If you want a Klimt primer that’s more than just a random collection, you really can’t do better than this.
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