Saskatchewan NAC

The Secret Language of Art


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The Illustrated Decoder of Symbols and Figures in Western Painting

2008 , 256 pages

11.8 x 9.2 x 0.8 inches

The great Western paintings are full of symbols - from the dove representing the Holy Spirit to the broken lute emphasizing the brevity of life. While immediately comprehensible to contemporary viewers, these signs are much less familiar today, and yet understanding them enables a much greater level of appreciation of the artist's meaning. In this stunning book, filled with beautiful pictures from the mediaeval era to the 20th century, Carr-Gomm analyses and explains the main symbols. The book is divided into five themes: Classical Myths and Legends; the Bible and the Life of Christ; Saints and their Miracles; History, Literature and the Arts; and Symbols and Allegories.

Each chapter examines famous paintings that reflect these themes, pointing out important symbols and characters and explaining their meanings. Following these paintings is a fully illustrated directory of key figures for each subject. Rather than fully explaining the meaning of works of art this book acts as an aid to deciphering the basics, allowing the viewer to develop an informed personal reading. It offers a chance to explore more widely by referring to important texts that would have been available to artists of a particular period. Each painting is linked to other works of art displaying related key elements, encouraging further exploration, and these are cross-referenced throughout the directory to other relevant entries in the book. There is also a concise index which lists where the works are located. While written with great clarity, the text is by no means simplistic. This is an inspirational book and one which will open up a whole new range of meanings in the world of art . (Kirkus UK)

NAC Item Number: B0062

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