Meet the Artists

The Mercer County Library often receives donations of books and films from our generous patrons. Lately, we have been very fortunate in that a local resident with an extensive, varied, and beautiful collection of art books – collected from many museum exhibitions over more than 30 years – has been giving a large number of these to our collection.

Just to help you to explore these, I would like to highlight just a few of the monographs and exhibition catalogs. They cover a wide range of art movements, artists, and countries. If you want to find more, check out our catalog and talk to the reference librarians at the Lawrence Branch where these new gifts are on the shelves.

Jean Fouquet and the Invention of France : Art and Nation After The Hundred Years War by Erik Inglis

This late 15th century French painter Jean Fouquet created beautiful manuscript art and miniature portraits for the courts of Charles VII and Louis XI. Considered the most important and influential French artist of this period, Fouquet’s art projected and defined an evolving French identity – which was of particular importance after the end of the exhaustive late mediaeval wars. Jean Fouquet and the Invention of France is considered an important book of recent scholarship on the artist and this period of French art history.

Dada : Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris by Leah Dickerman

Who couldn't love an art movement named Dada? A movement born in reaction to the sufferings of World War I, the origin of the term ‘dada’ is debated. Some say it derives from the French word for hobbyhorse; others from ‘yes’ in the Romanian language. It is probably appropriate that it isn’t well defined in either case. Dadism embraced experimental art – not just painting and graphics – but sound and music. Just a few years ago McCarter theater in Princeton staged a revival of the farcical, witty romp through the Dadist period, Travesties by Tom Stoppard. The Dadist poet named Tzara takes the stage as in real life he was a ‘president’ in the Dada movement– writing in its journals and manifestos.

But, for a more serious look at Dadism, this monograph explores artists during the fertile period of 1916 to 1924 in the main urban areas where the movement flourished. Dada : Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris was issued in conjunction with the an exhibition of Dada art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the MOMA in New York, and the Musee National d'art Modern, Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Why did Marcel Duchamp paint a moustache on a Mona Lisa image? Perhaps the answer will be here - Check it out!

The Power of Feminist Art : The American Movement of the 1970s, History and Impact edited by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard

After exploring the early 20th century art movement, Dadism, a primarily male-generated phenomena, you might want to explore the beginnings of the American Feminist Art movement that took off in the early 1970s.

This collection of scholarly essays by both artists and art historians explores the beginning and evolution of the Feminist Art movement – including the first art education programs with feminist aspects, the famous Womanhouse project, and seminal exhibitions, such as Woman Artist 1550-1950 held in 1975. The 1980s backlash against feminism and its effect on woman’s art is covered and new developments of the 1990s. “Art” here includes paintings as well as performance art, public art, and more. The hundreds of images of art captured in The Power of Feminist Art are, indeed, powerful.

Moving away from discussions of art movements, there are numerous titles that feature the work of one artist. Among the moderns, I would like to highlight volumes on Milton Avery, Aaron Douglas, and Alice Neel.

Milton Avery
In Milton Avery by Robert Hobbs, we examine the work of Milton Avery (1885-1965) an American modern painter who eventually worked in New York City and whose art influenced development in American abstract painting. Although Avery’s work was representational, its emphasis on color and lack of realistic depth was viewed as radical in its time. Ironically, when Abstract Expressionism became a dominant art trend after the late 1940s, Avery’s work was viewed as too representational. Avery just didn’t fit. This volume is based on the 1982 Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective and the reproductions in 120 color plates are impressive. As for anecdotes, Avery was laconic: "Why talk when you can paint?" he would say. Refreshing for museum goers tired of reading long artist statements.

Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist is based on an exhibition that appeared at four venues: the Spencer Museum of Art of the University of Kansas, the Frist Center for Visual Arts in Nashville, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, D.C., and the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York in 2007 and 2008.

 Douglas (1899-1979) was a major African-American painter and figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Art critics describe his portraits, black-and-white drawings, murals, and landscapes as fusing a modernist style with African inspired motifs. His images draw from African American experience and show men and women in both urban and rural contexts, in nightclubs, churches, at labor, and in celebration. Especially worth mention is Douglas's book illustrations in works by black-American writers such as James Weldon Johnson and Countee Cullen, as well as other prominent Black intellectuals of the period. Among his best-known work is the series of murals, Aspects of Negro Life, created in 1934 for the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library. You can still go the New York City to the renamed library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, to view the work.

If you can’t make the trip however, why not check out this book and familiarize yourself with a great American artist.

In Alice Neel by Patricia Hills, we examine the work of the American painter Alice Neel (1900-1984). Including the text of taped conversations with Alice Neel herself, this volume includes over 182 examples of Neel’s work. Almost all are of the human figure and are portraits – ranging from depictions of the well-known and the unknown, from Any Warhol and Isabel Bishop to friends, family, and ordinary people. The volume covers Neel’s early work, during the Depression when she worked for the WPA and the remainder of her career, based in New York City. Her style has been described as: unpretty, gritty, flamboyant, disturbing. She had an eventful life, intense relationships, periods of dark poverty, political commitments to communism, a stay in a mental hospital ... and yet there is a large body of important work. Her portraitures are said to be part of a transition from the pre-World War II social realism and the post War abstract impressionists. Some describe her work as proto-feminist. You will not be bored!

Karen S.

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