Taschen Basic Art is one of the best selling art collection books, and is published by Taschen. Each book looks at a different artist, with a biography, and pictures of their work. The books were originally published as large, A4 books, but were later published (and still are) as smaller books. New titles are published regularly.
From the towering Sagrada Família to the shimmering, textured facade of Casa Batlló and the enchanting landscape of Park Güell, it’s easy to see why Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) gained the epithet “God’s architect”. With fluid forms and mathematical precision, his work extols the wonder of natural creation: columns soar like tree trunks, window frames curve like flowering branches, and ceramic tiling shimmers like scaly, reptilian skin.
With this outstanding attention to natural detail, his inspirations from both neo-Gothic and Orientalist aesthetics, and a lifelong commitment to Catalan identity, Gaudí created a unique brand of the Modernista movement which transformed, and defines, Barcelona’s cityscape.
With seven of Gaudí’s projects listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this book introduces the architect’s extraordinary vision and unique legacy, exploring the influences and the details which allow his buildings to impress, inspire, and amaze, one century after their construction.
In a fleeting fourteen year period, sandwiched between two world wars, Germany’s Bauhaus school of art and design changed the face of modernity. With utopian ideals for the future, the school developed apioneering fusion of fine art, craftsmanship, and technology to be applied across painting, sculpture, design, architecture, film, photography, textiles, ceramics, theatre, and installation.
As much an intense personal community as a publicly minded collective, the Bauhaus was first founded byWalter Gropius (1883–1969), and counted Josef and Anni Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, Gunta Stölzl, Marianne Brandt and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe among its members. Between its three successive locations in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin, the school fosteredcharistmatic and creative exchange between teachers and students, all varied in their artistic styles and preferences, but united in their idealism and their interest in a “total” work of art across different practices and media.
This book celebrates the adventurous innovation of the Bauhaus movement, both as a trailblazer in the development of modernism, and as a paradigm of art education, where an all-encompassing freedom of creative expression and cutting-edge ideas led to functional and beautiful creations.
Emerging into notoriety in the period following World War II, Bacon took the human body as his nominal subject, but a subject ravaged, distorted, and dismembered so as to writhe and wail with intense emotional content. With flailing limbs, hollow voids, and tumurous growths, his gripping, often grotesque, portraits are as much reflections on the trials and the traumas of the human condition as they are character studies. These haunting forms were also among the first in art history to depict overtly homosexual themes.
This book introduces Bacon’s erotic, unsettling, unforgettable oeuvre, a transformative body of work often emulated, much analysed, and above all felt.
The great Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1526/31–1569)was an astoundingly inventive painter and draftsman, who made his art historical mark with beautiful, evocative landscapes as well as religious subjects, both notable for their vernacular language and attention to everyday, contemporary life.
Immersing himself in rural or small-town communities, Bruegel is particularly notable for his depiction ofpeasant experience and folk culture, earning the artist nickname “Peasant Bruegel.” Whether hunters shivering in the snow or a boisterous country fair, Bruegel raised the farming, festivals, gatherings, and games of peasant culture to the status of high art. Bruegel’s imposing religious and moral subjects, meanwhile, such as The Triumph of Death and The Tower of Babel are as awestriking and influential today as they were in the 16th century, inspiring contemporary culture from The Lord of the Rings cinematic battle scenes to Don DeLillo’s novel Underworld.
From the corn harvest to the conversion of Saul, from quaint wedding processions to Christ’s road to Calvary, this book brings together the rich range of Bruegel’s subjects to introduce his powerful compositions of both biblical and earthly tableaux.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) was always a name to be reckoned with. Notorious bad boy of the Italian Baroque, the artist was at once celebrated and controversial, violent in temper, precise in technique, a creative master, and a man on the run.
Though famed for his dramatic use of color, light, and shadow, it was above all Caravaggio’s boundary-breaking naturalism which scorched his name into the annals of art history. From the dirtied soles of feet to the sexualised languor of bare flesh, the artist allowed even sacred and biblical scenes to unfold witha startling, often visceral humanity. This vivid pictorial world was accompanied by an equally intense personal biography, scored by gambling, debts, drunken brawls, and even a murder charge.
This book brings together Caravaggio’s most famous and revolutionary works to explain why this artist is now considered the most important painter of the early Baroque period and one of the defining influences of art history, without whom Ribera, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Delacroix, Courbet, and Manet could never have painted the way they did.
Painter, sculptor, writer, film-maker, and all-round showman Salvador Dalí (1904–1989)was one of thetwentieth century’s greatest exhibitionists and eccentrics. One of the first artists to apply the insights of Freudian psychoanalysis to art, he is celebrated in particular for his surrealist practice, with such conceits as the soft watches or the lobster telephone, now hallmarks of the surrealist enterprise, and of modernism in general.
Dalí frequently described his paintings as “hand-painted dream photographs.” Their tantalizing tension and interest resides in the precise rendering of bizarre elements and incongruous arrangements. As Dalí himself explained, he painted with “the most imperialist fury of precision,” but only “to systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality.”
Revolutionizing the role of the artist, the mustache-twirling Dalí also had the intuition to parade acontroversial persona in the public arena and, through printmaking, fashion, advertising, writing, and film, to create work that could be consumed and not just contemplated on a gallery wall.
This book explores both the painting and the personality of Dalí, introducing his technical skill as well as his provocative compositions and challenging themes of death, decay, and eroticism.
Lucian Freud (1922–2011) was interested in the telling of truth. Always operating outside the main currents of 20th-century art, the esteemed portrait painter observed his subjects with the regimen and precision of a laboratory scientist. He recorded not only the blotches, bruises, and swellings of the living body, but also, beneath the flaws and folds of flesh, the microscopic details of what lies within: the sensation, the emotion, the intelligence, the bloom, and the inevitable, unstoppable decay.
Despite rejecting parallels between him and his renowned grandfather, the correlation between Lucian Freud’s sitting process for portraiture and Sigmund Freud’s psychotherapy sessions is a fascinating element to this figurative oeuvre. Despite the thickness of the impasto surfaces, Freud’s portraits of subjects as varied as the Queen, Kate Moss, and an obese job center supervisor, penetrate the physicality of the body with a direct and often disarming insight. The result is as much a psychological interrogationas it is an uneasy examination of the relationship between artist and model.
This book brings together some of Freud’s most outstanding and unapologetic portraits, to introduce an artist widely considered one of the finest masters of the human form.
The arresting pictures of Frida Kahlo (1907–54)were in many ways expressions of trauma. Through a near-fatal road accident at the age of 18, failing health, a turbulent marriage, miscarriage and childlessness, she transformed the afflictions into revolutionary art.
In literal or metaphorical self-portraiture, Kahlo looks out at the viewer with an audacious glare, rejecting her destiny as a passive victim and rather intertwining expressions of her experience into a hybrid surreal-real language of living: hair, roots, veins, vines, tendrils and fallopian tubes. Many of her works also explore the Communist political ideals which Kahlo shared with her husband Diego Rivera. The artist described her paintings as “the most sincere and real thing that I could do in order to express what I felt inside and outside of myself.”
This book introduces a rich body of Kahlo’s work to explore her unremitting determination as an artist, and her significance as a painter, feminist icon, and a pioneer of Latin American culture.
The unfading popularity of Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) attests not only to the particular appeal of his luxuriant painting but also to the universal themes with which he worked: love, feminine beauty, aging,and death.
The son of a goldsmith, Klimt created surfaces of ornate and jewel-like luminosity which show influence of both Egyptian and Japanese art. Through paintings, murals, and friezes, his work is defined by radiant color, fluid lines, floral elements, and mosaic-like patterning.
With a number of subjects dealing with sensuality and desire as well as anxiety and despair, all this iridescence is also suffused with feeling. Klimt’s numerous images of women, characterized by curvaceous forms, tender flesh, red lips and flushed cheeks, were particularly charged with passion, at a time when such frank eroticism was still taboo in Viennese upper middle class society.
This book presents a selection of Klimt’s work, introducing his pictorial world of decoration and desire, as well as his influence on artists to come.
Filling notebook after notebook with sketches, inventions, and theories, Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) not only stands as one of the most exceptional draftsmen of art history, but also as a mastermind and innovator who anticipated some of the greatest discoveries of human progress, sometimes centuries before their material realisation.
From the smallest arteries in the human heart to the far-flung constellations of the universe, Leonardo saw nature and science as being unequivocally connected. His points of enquiry and invention spannedphilosophy, anatomy, geology, and mathematics, from the laws of optics, gravitation, heat and light to the building of a flying machine.
In his painting, Leonardo steered art out of the Middle Ages with works such as The Last Supper and the world-famous La Gioconda or Mona Lisa depicting not only physical appearances, but a compelling psychological intrigue and depth which continues to draw crowds of mesmerized visitors to masterpieces in Paris, Milan, Washington, London, and Rome.
This book collates some of Leonardo’s most outstanding work to introduce a figure of infinite curiosity,feverish imagination and sublime artistic ability, often described as having “not enough worlds for to conquer, and not enough lives for to live” (Alan Woods).
Hailed the “Prince of the Impressionists”, Claude Monet (1840-1926) transformed expectations for the purpose of paint on canvas. Defying the precedent of centuries, Monet did not seek to render only reality, but the act of perception itself. Working “en plein air” with rapid, impetuous brush strokes, he interrogated the play of light on the hues, patterns, and contours and the way in which these visual impressions fall upon the eye.
Monet’s interest in this space “between the motif and the artist” encompassed too the ephemeral natureof each image we see. In his beloved water lily series, as well as in paintings of poplars, grain stacks,and the Rouen cathedral, he returned to the same motif in different seasons, different weather conditions, and at different times of the day, to explore the constant mutability of our visual environment.
This book offers the essential introduction to an artist whose works simultaneously reflected upon the purpose of a picture and the passage of time, and in so doing transformed irrevocably the story of art.
Diego Rivera (1886–1957) is a loud presence on the art historical stage. With devout political principles and a turbulent romantic history, he was at once husband and paladin of Frida Kahlo, advocate and adversary of Stalin’s Soviet Union, and liberator and traitor of Leon Trotsky.
Vibrant, graphic, and often monumental, Rivera’s paintings carry the same live political and passionate charge as his personal biography. Fusing European influences such as Cubism with a socialist ideology and an exaltation of Mexico’s indigenous and popular heritage, he created a new iconography for art history and for his country. He became one of the most important figures in the Mexican mural movement and won international acclaim for his public wall paintings, in which he presented a utopian yet accessible vision of a post-revolutionary Mexico. In 1931, Rivera was the subject of MoMA’s second ever monographic exhibition.
This book explores the unique blend of influence and ideology which secure Rivera’s place as both a unique and a universal painter, bound to the particular turbulent experience of early 20th century Mexico, and yet preoccupied with subjects such as revolution and class inequity which continue to speak to us today.
Resisting interpretation or classification, Mark Rothko (1903–1970) was a prominent advocate for the artist’s consummate freedom of expression. Although identified as a key protagonist of the Abstract Expressionist movement, first formed in New York City, Rothko rejected the label and insisted instead on“a consummated experience between picture and onlooker.”
Following a repertoire of figurative works, Rothko developed his now iconic canvases of bold color blocksin red, yellow, ochre, maroon, black, green. With these shimmering, pulsating color masses, Rothko stressed that he had not removed the human figure but rather put symbols or shapes in its place. These intense color forms contained all the tragedy of the human condition. At the same time, Rothko explicitly empowered the viewer in the expressive potential of his work. He believed “A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer.”
From his early development through to his most famous color fields, this book introduces the intellect and influence of Rothko’s dramatic, intimate, and revolutionary work.
In the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) lies an impact akin to a sudden acquisition of sight. His landscapes and seascapes scorch the eye with such ravishing light and color, with such elemental force, it is as if the sun itself were gleaming out of the frame.
Appropriately known as “the painter of light”, Turner worked in print, watercolor, and oils to transform landscape from serene contemplative scenes to pictures pulsating with life. He anchored his work to the River Thames and to the sea, but in the historical context of the Industrial Revolution, also integrated boats, trains, and other markers of human activity, so as to juxtapose the thrust of civilisation against the forces of nature.
This book covers Turner’s illustrious, wide-ranging repertoire to introduce an artist who combined a traditional genre with a radical modernism.
The creative duo Charles Eames (1907–1978) and Ray Kaiser Eames (1912–1988) transformed the visual character of America. Though best known for their furniture, the husband and wife team were also forerunners in architecture, textile design, photography, and film.
The Eames’ work defined a new, multifunctional modernity, exemplary for its integration of craft and design, as well as for the use of modern materials, notably plywood and plastics. The Eames Lounge Chair Wood, designed with molded plywood technology, became a defining furniture piece of the twentieth century, while the couple’s contribution to the Case Study Houses project not only made inventive use of industrial materials but also developed an adaptable floor plan of multipurpose spaces which would become a hallmark of postwar modern architecture.
From the couple’s earliest furniture experiments to their seminal short film Powers of Ten, this book covers all the aspects of the illustrious Eames repertoire and its revolutionary impact on middle-class American living.
As cryptic as they are compelling, the masterpieces of Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516) remain some of the most enduring enigmas of the art world. Their intricate, allegorical, and often startling content has captivated not only art historians, but also fashion designers, rock stars, writers, and punk rockers, as well as countless modern and contemporary artist successors.
Although rooted in the Old Netherlandish tradition, Bosch developed a highly subjective, richly suggestive style to render both the celestial bliss of heaven and the grotesque tortures of hell, most famously and meticulously excecuted in The Garden of Earthly Delights. Here, as in his other known works, his artistic language combined religious humility with a razor-sharp wit, often playing off pictorial versions of contemporary proverbs or figures of speech.
This book ties together the elusive threads of Bosch’s oeuvre to provide a concise introduction to an at oncehaunting and enthralling pictorial world.
Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) made a unique modernist mark. Influenced by both the landscape and the political independence of his native Finland, he designed warm, curving, compassionate buildings,wholly set apart from the slick, mechanistic, geometric designs that characterized much contemporary European practice.
Whether a church, a villa, a sauna, or a public library, Aalto’s organic structures tended to replace plaster and steel with brick and wood, often incorporating undulating, wave-like forms, which would also appear in his chair, glassware, and lamp designs.
An adherent to detail, Aalto insisted upon the humanity and societal role of architecture, stating: “Modern architecture does not mean using immature new materials; the main thing is to work with materials towards a more human line.” Many of his public buildings such as Säynätsalo Town Hall, the lecture theatre at Otaniemi Technical University, the Helsinki National Pensions Institute and the Helsinki House of Culture may be seen as psychological as well as physical landmarks in the rebuilding of Finland after the ravages of war.
This book brings together Aalto’s key works to introduce the architect hailed as a champion ofenvironmentally sound, progressive design, with a deep-rooted sense of home.
Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, Le Corbusier (1887–1965) is widely acclaimed as the most influential architect of the 20th century. From private villas to mass social housing projects, his radical ideas, designs, and writings presented a whole-scale reinvention not only of individual structures, but of entire concepts of modern living.
Le Corbusier’s work made distinct developments over the years, from early vernacular houses in Switzerland through dazzling white, purist villas to dynamic syntheses of art and architecture such as the chapel at Ronchamp and the civic buildings in Chandigarh, India. A hallmark throughout was his ability to combine functionalist aspirations with a strong sense of expressionism, as well as a broader and empathetic understanding of urban planning. He was a founding member of the Congrès international d’architecture moderne (CIAM), which championed “architecture as a social art.”
This book presents some of Le Corbusier’s landmark projects to introduce an architect, thinker, and modern pioneer who, even in his unrealized projects, offered discussion and inspiration for generations to come.
MIES VAN DER ROHE
Famed for his motto “less is more,” Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) was one of the founding fathers of modern architecture and a hotly-debated tastemaker of twentieth-century aesthetics and urban experience.
Mies van der Rohe’s philosophy was one of underlying truth in pure forms and proportions. With the help of contemporary technological and material developments, he sought a stripped-down purity to architecture, showcased by the likes of the Seagram Building and Farnsworth House. Some spoke out against this stark approach as the precursor to bland, generic cityscapes. Others cite Mies van der Rohe as the ultimate master of an abidingly elegant essence.
This book presents more than 20 of Mies van der Rohe’s projects from the period 1906–1967 to introduce his groundbreaking practise and influence in both America and Europe.
Acclaimed as the “father of skyscrapers”, the quintessentially American icon Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) was an architect of aspiration. He believed in giving cultivated American life its fitting architectural equivalent and applied his idealism to structures across the continent, from suburban homes to churches, offices, skyscrapers, and the celebrated Guggenheim Museum.
Wright’s work is distinguished by its harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he calledorganic architecture, and which found its paradigm at Fallingwater, a house in rural Pennsylvania, cited by the American Institute of Architects as “the best all-time work of American architecture”. Wright also made a particular mark with his use of industrial materials, and by the simple L or T plan of hisPrairie House which became a model for rural architecture across America. Wright was also often involved in many of the interior elements of his buildings, such as the furniture and stained glass, paying particular attention to the balance between individual needs and community activity.
Exploring Wright’s aspirations to augment American society through architecture, this book offers a concise introduction to his at once technological and Romantic response to the practical challenges of middle-class Americans.
The beauty of nature and man’s loneliness are dominant themes in the work of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). The artist often places a small human figure in a broad landscape, as in his famous paintings Monk by the Sea and The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. For a long time the importance and influence of this great Romantic painter were underestimated. When he died, Friedrich had already been forgotten by his contemporaries and was only rediscovered in the early 20th century. Today he is considered to be the most important German painter of his generation and a precursor of Expressionism.
Once Friedrich gave the following advice to an artist-colleague of his who was constricted by academic rules: “Shut your physical eye so that you first see your painting with your spiritual eye. Then bring to light what you saw in the dark so that it has an effect on others, shining inwards from outside.” In other words, concentration and not imitation, essence and not frivolous brushwork.
Edward Hopper (1882–1967) is something of an American success story, if only his success had come swifter. At the age of 40, he was a failing artist who struggled to sell a single painting. As he approached 80, Time magazine featured him on its cover. Today, half a century after his death, Hopper is considered a giant of modern expression, with an uncanny, unforgettable, and utterly distinct sense for mood and place.
Much of Hopper’s work excavates modern city experience. In canvas after canvas, he depicts diners, cafes, shopfronts, street lights, gas stations, rail stations, and hotel rooms. The scenes are marked by vivid color juxtapositions and stark, theatrical lighting, as well as by harshly contoured figures, who appear at once part of, and alien to, their surroundings. The ambiance throughout his repertoire is of an eerie disquiet, alienation, loneliness and psychological tension, although his rural or coastal scenes can offer a counterpoint of tranquility or optimism.
This book presents key works from Hopper’s œuvre to introduce a key player not only in American art history but also in the American psyche.
Over the course of his artistic career, Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) transformed not only his own style, but the course of art history. From early figurative and landscape painting, he went on to pioneer a spiritual, emotive, rhythmic use of color and line and is today credited with creating the first purely abstract work.
As much a teacher and theorist as he was a practicing artist, Kandinsky’s interests in music, theater, poetry, philosophy, ethnology, myth, and the occult, were all essential components to his painting and engraving. He was involved with both the influential Blaue Reiter and Bauhaus groups and left a legacy not only of dazzling visual work, but also of highly influential treatises such as Concerning the Spiritual In Art. Key tenets included the connections between painting, music and mystical experience, and the purification of art away from material realism and towards an emotional expression, condensed in particular by color.
This book presents key Kandinsky works to introduce his repertoire of vivid colors, forms, and feelings. Tracing the artist’s radical stylistic development, it shows how one painter’s progression paved the way for generations of abstract expression to come.
Andy Warhol (1928–1987) is hailed as the most important proponent of the Pop Art movement. A critical and creative observer of American society, he explored key themes of consumerism, materialism, media, and celebrity.
Drawing on contemporary advertisements, comic strips, consumer products, and Hollywood’s most famous faces, Warhol proposed a radical reevaluation of what constituted artistic subject matter. Through Warhol, a Campbell’s soup can and Coca Cola bottle became as worthy of artistic status as any traditional still life. At the same time, Warhol reconfigured the role of the artist. Famously stating “I want to be a machine,” he systematically reduced the presence of his own authorship, working with mass-production methods and images, as well as dozens of assistants in a studio he dubbed The Factory.
This book introduces Warhol’s multifaceted, prolific oeuvre, which revolutionized distinctions between “high” and “low” art and integrated ideas of living, producing, and consuming that remain central questions of modern experience.