Archive for category Author: Susie Hodge

Painting Masterclass || Susie Hodge

At first sight, this has the appearance of another of Susie Hodge’s excellent analyses of the painting methods of historical masters. The format and binding are even the same as her Art in Detail series.

This is not entirely surprising, as that’s exactly what it is. However, the book is more specifically geared to the practical reader and uses what we’ll call great works to analyse a wide variety of topics. Call it learning by example, the descriptive rather than the prescriptive method.

The word Masterclass is bandied about rather indiscriminately in the book world and is frequently applied to anything the publisher thinks isn’t obviously introductory or for the beginner. Sometimes, my inner cynic mutters that they just want a title that appeals to the more experienced artist, who perhaps hasn’t been buying enough of their books lately. Well hush my mouth – a bit.

Here, though the word is entirely justified (and you might want to add that, if anyone isn’t going to misuse it, that person would be Susie Hodge). This is most precisely a masterclass. The teachers are masters and the class is absolutely for the experienced worker. There are no instructions – you won’t be following any exercises or demonstrations here. What you will be doing is learning how Georges Seurat used form and colour, how shapes work in Manet’s Déjuner sur l’Herbe (actually, Anglicised titles are used throughout) or light breathes atmosphere into a Fantin-Latour still life.

Susie is, as ever, concise and cogent in her analyses and the book works almost as well as an introduction to art appreciation, meaning you could say you’re getting twice the value which, given the quality and quantity of the illustrations, would make it an absolute steal.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Advertisements

Leave a comment

The Short Story of Modern Art || Susie Hodge

This is, in many ways, the companion to Susie’s earlier Why Your Five year Old Could Not Have Done That. Where that volume concentrated on explaining specific pieces to the general reader whose initial response would be likely to be “doesn’t look much like art to me”, this one is a more chronological narrative that traces historical developments, movements and important figures.

In this way, Bauhaus sits alongside Magic Realism and leads to Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. A look at The Treachery of Images is illustrated, perhaps inevitably, by Magritte’s Pipe (This is Not a Pipe) and we also get to meet Marcel Duchamp, Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollock. Did I also say that Rodin’s Thinker is here too?

As the title implies, this is a potted history that is at once informative, entertaining and understandable. If modern art (and all art was, in its day, modern), leaves you confused, the estimable Susie Hodge cuts a swathe through mystery, jargon and the sometimes deliberate obscurantism that some critics seem to need to introduce.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

I Know An Artist || Susie Hodge

Once you get the hang of it, this is an intriguing ramble through the connections between artists, schools and movements. The structure is a series of short (one might even say potted) biographies of figures as diverse as Monet, Mondrian, Hepworth and Emin. The contents pages provide a guide through the maze and point out the various byways, as a look at (say) Bridget Riley stops off to consider Pollock, Cezanne and Matisse.

Art does not, of course, exist in a vacuum and completely fresh ideas are a rarity; rather, individuals and groups feed off each other and develop, or maybe react against, what has gone before. That this has been widely covered is scarcely news, and is the main meat of many art histories. Where this book differs is in concentrating on individuals and making specific links; indeed, majoring on that rather than a narrative thread of history.

The slightly idiosyncratic presentation, with amusing illustrations and what can only be described as kooky typography tends at first glance to cloud the message, but a read of the subtitle, the introduction and the contents list should provide a workable road map. I’m also not sure that without the look and feel, the book would be half so interesting. Precisely because this isn’t a linear history, it benefits from a non-linear way of working.

If you like unconventional ways of thinking that make you look at familiar material afresh, you’ll love this.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Modern Art in Detail || Susie Hodge

Modern art can be a hard sell to the non-specialist and requires a considerable degree of explanation and, often, a whole new vocabulary. This can lead to a sense of exclusion and a suspicion that experts (oh, don’t we hate them?) are making it up as they go along. The fact that some of them almost certainly are has nothing to do with it.

Susie is an erudite and experienced writer about art, but she wears her learning lightly. You might be forgiven, in fact, for thinking that she is a casual observer rather than one of the aforesaid experts. If there is a thing to “get”, though, she gets it and part of it is that other casual observers need simple explanations and their concerns addressed. Her previous forays into this minefield include Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That and Why is Art Full of Naked People? (the latter written for children). She has also written a number of studies of individual artists that, wisely, concentrate on the image rather than schools and places in history – although these are not ignored where they matter.

All art was, of course, modern in its day and this easily-forgotten fact slaps you in the face on the first page when you’re confronted with Van Gogh’s Church in Auvers-sur-Oise. This is wisely chosen as it combines a familiar image with a recognisable subject along with the artist’s characteristic trademarks. It is not, however, one of the more problematic paintings from his later manic phase. As well as the exploded details that give the book its title, there is a very useful sidebar of a much earlier work by Van Gogh that shows him following a more traditional path before developing his own style.

The analytical sections of the book explain each artist’s working methods: pictorial elements, perspective, colour and structure. The book is illustration-led throughout and the words are barely more than extended captions so that there is nothing to get bogged down in. The whole idea is that you should be able to appreciate a wide variety of work (although the total number is 75, they have been carefully chosen to be representative of the whole gamut of styles and movements). In short, this is about art, not academia, and it’s all the better for that.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Art in Detail || Susie Hodge

Do you want to learn how to understand and appreciate art? To know what you’re looking at and what you should be looking for? If you’re reading this, the chances are that you do, but do you have the time or the resources to buy libraries of books or sign up for a full-blown course? If not, then this book, which is an absolute steal at twenty-five quid, is not merely the next best thing, but the next best thing by a very good margin.

Susie Hodge always gives you a lot more than she promises. This presents itself as what it is – 100 paintings concisely analysed through enlarged details that’ll explain imagery, symbolism and technique. Divide that into the 400-odd pages that are here and you’ll see that each painting gets just four pages. Not enough, I hear you cry. But it is, because this is an introduction, not a textbook. Susie won’t weigh you down with more information than you can absorb, or blind you with science – and science has an increasing role to play in understanding how paintings are constructed, worked on, changed.

If you want to know more – and there’s a lot more to know – about the Arnolfini Portrait, there are libraries full of books about it, about Van Eyck and the Flemish School, not to mention the fifteenth century as a whole. It’s the same with Breughel’s enigmatic figures and, of course, when you get to the twentieth century, there’s a whole new language to learn.

You see? Already, this isn’t just a primer in art appreciation, it’s a potted history of some 800 years in 100 carefully and wisely selected paintings. You don’t narrow a subject as big as this down to something manageable without a very deep understanding of it. Shaking a box of slides and seeing what falls out won’t cut it. And, while we’re on the subject of illustrations, Thames & Hudson have done us proud here. The quality is pitch-perfect – in both the full size reproductions and the details (which is arguably where it matters most). If you just wanted a collection of a hundred of the most important, significant or typical works from the aforesaid 800 years of art history, this book will do just nicely.

Add in, however, a simple critique and this cake is superbly iced. Susie’s previous book, Why Is Art Full of Naked People, was aimed at children. This one is its grown-up cousin you can give them when they’re older – assuming you haven’t kept it for yourself, that is.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Why is Art Full of Naked People? || Susie Hodge

This is, in many ways, the young person’s companion to Susie’s earlier Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That. I say “many ways”, because, if you’re honest, it addresses a lot of the questions you hope someone else will ask. Only a child has the licence to comment on the emperor’s new clothes; as adults, we’re supposed to know.

Susie is an excellent explainer and can write at length when the context demands or allows it. She’s also, however, capable – and not afraid – of being direct and succinct, and nothing here takes more than a couple of pages, and often less. As well as the question in the title, topics addressed include abstraction (What is it exactly?), Cubism (Is it upside down?) and the existential: Do you have to be clever to look at art?

The text is simple and to the point and designed to be unintimidating. The effect of this, though, is rather reduced by a ragbag of fonts and point sizes, as well as random words in bold that make reading difficult almost to the point of impossibility. It looks more like an amateur let loose in a Letraset shop than a piece of professional work (sorry). There was a vogue for this in advertising a few years ago and it was quickly dropped for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, I’d urge you to persist, because this is actually one of the best primers in art appreciation you’re ever likely to find.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Gustav Klimt (Masterpieces of Art) || Susie Hodge

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.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories