This pleasantly serendipitous book spreads its net wide and its coverage ranges from Thanet in the East to Mousehole in the West – a lot more than the “Dover to Brighton” run that the term often seems to imply.
As several of Sansom’s similar recent offerings have, it accompanies an exhibition (in this case at the St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery in Lymington from 19 September 2015 – 9 January 2016). On the basis of the book, I’d urge you visit if you possibly can as you’ll see a more catholic choice of work and artists than is often possible.
The blurb slightly plays up ( as it’s entitled to do) the role of the coast in art from the seventeenth century to the present. Artists have indeed painted coastal subjects and are attracted both by the air and the light (they like a seaside break as much as the next person), but they’ve also painted buildings, landscapes, portraits in equal profusion.
But I quibble. This is about the coast in art and it’s a nicely-chosen selection that runs from Turner to Kurt Jackson by way of Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious and Laura Knight. The serendipity comes from the fact that these are artists you can really only anthologise by subject matter and, being necessarily a selection, you can’t easily guess what’s round the next corner or on the next page. If I was one to squeal with delight at every new discovery, I’d have been very annoying while I was reading this!
As well as being thoughtfully curated, the book has insightful essays by the editors that explain their choices and put them in a narrative context. It should also be said that the illustrations are well-reproduced and generously sized. Books of this type sometimes act more like a catalogue for the personal visitor and cram in too many pictures, with the result that many are little bigger than a postage-stamp. Long after the exhibition has closed, this will stand alone and it’s all the better for that.
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