Friday, April 29, 2011

Winnowing Art Books

Their time has nearly come. They lay stacked atop chairs and book cases, even tucked away in corners on the floor. Soon they will be gone. For my wife is making grumbling noises and even I can see that the book buildup in the small bedroom I use as a library / painting studio is too large even for my taste in messiness.

I know what to do; the important matter is how. Which books stay and which head for Powell's in Portland?

Keepers include references such as general art histories, potted artists' biographies and short takes on art movements. I'll hang on to most monographs about artists, particularly those I really like. Ditto similar books about architecture and industrial design.

Then there are some gray-area books. These are books I can't make up my mind about; more time is needed before I can make a stronger save / sell decision.

Books I'm discarding? Those dealing with periods of less interest are prime candidates; that means before the mid-1800s. There are exceptions, of course: Tiepolo, Velázquez and British portrait painters starting with Reynolds come to mind.

Then there are redundant books about given subjects. For instance, I have more then one book about Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Impressionism, skyscraper architecture, Alphonse Mucha, Tamara de Lempicka, Gustav Klimt, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Joseph Urban, Raymond Loewy, Maxfield Parrish, Tiepolo, Velázquez, Norman Rockwell, John Singer Sargent and several other people and topics. Assuming overlap in illustration subject-matter, my inclination here is to discard older works because the quality of color reproduction usually isn't as good as it has been more recently.

I'm also getting rid of books that I'm not likely to re-read. Examples here include group biographies of Surrealists and Paris Bohemians as well as those about individuals such as N.C. Wyeth and Harvey Dinnerstein.

How-to books about painting that I seldom refer to are due for the axe too.

It's somewhat easier to discard books than it was 20 years and more ago. That was when there was no Internet and getting to a library to find reference material was a hassle. I found it easier to maintain my own library where what I might need would be at hand. Nowadays I find myself downloading images and using Google and Bing to track down information about artists and movements, so even those general reference books might disappear the next time I do housecleaning.

All well and good, I suppose. But the best solution (from my perspective) is to have enough space that I don't need to get rid of so many books so often. Or at all.

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