Encounters With Great Painters

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9780810943964: Encounters With Great Painters

A fascinating collection of photoessays, interviews, and anecdotes from Paris Match magazine goes behind the scenes to capture the private world of eleven legenday modern artists, including Matisse, Dalf, Bacon, Picasso, Chagall, Braque, Van Dongen, Mir=, Delvaux, LTger, and Balthus.

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Review:

Paris Match is the Life magazine of France, but the je ne sais quoi that separates English-language journalism from French never seemed stronger than in Encounters with Great Painters, lavishly illustrated tributes (interviews isn't quite the word) to 10 famous artists, including Georges Braque, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, Balthus, Francis Bacon, and Salvador Dalí. The 95 photographs dating from the '30s through the '90s are the main reason to buy the book. Here is Matisse at 80, lying in bed as he calmly manipulates a long stick with a piece of charcoal clamped at one end to produce the elegantly simple face of Mary Magdalen, part of a commission for St. Paul de Vence. Here is Picasso, cutting up an owlish photograph of his eyes by David Douglas Duncan and inserting them into a whimsical animal drawing. Here is the apocalyptic mess of Bacon's studio, where layers of plates and trash turn a table to rubble, and even the walls offer evidence of painterly struggle.

The tributes, however, are big on the sort of existential quotes that once seemed appropriate for the Artist to utter. ("I've never wanted anything in life and I've never made any decisions," says Braque. "Everything came together on its own.") In keeping with the pervasive tone of high-flown vagueness, the two Balthus essays never even mention the artist's much-debated imagery of young girls dreamily flaunting their sexuality. The amorphous quality of the book extends to its curious treatment of photo captions. It took this reader quite a while to figure out that the scattered remarks on the first page devoted to each artist actually match up (more or less) with the photos that follow. --Cathy Curtis

About the Author:

Roger Therond has been director of Paris Match magazine for the past 25 years. He is a journalist and the managing director of PHOTO magazine in France.

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