Nov 10, 2011

REVIEW | Icons of Art the 20th Century, Jurgen Tesch, Prestel, 2003

Icons of Art the 20th Century, Book Cover
Our century has witnessed a profusion of artistic trends and developments like no other. Author of Icons of the 20th Century, Jurgen Tesch does an amazing job at reminding everyone of the works of art that have changed the world of art and that continue to influence the art world today.
Presented in chronological order, the works in this book illuminate the ever-changing conceptions of art over the last hundred years. In the Foreword part of this book, the editors express the reason why these particular works of arts (and artists) were chosen to be a part of this volume.
They mention their influence on the fact that “the public’s reception of art plays an important part in its development.” I find that Tesch’s arguments for choosing these particular artists for the book are well made. To help defend his reasons for choosing these certain artists, Tesch makes a point to quote Sandro Bocola, a very successful and well known artist.
“The success of an artist indicates that the public was in some way able, or thought it was able, to recognize itself in the work (or in his person), thereby identifying itself. Only the ‘successful’ work reflects the consciousness of ‘its’ time; this also applies when this consciousness and thus success – as in the case of some pioneers – lags temporally behind the work of art”.
The sequence of the successful artists in this time frame also shows the development of the artist’s consciousness of this certain era.
Icons of Art the 20th Century, (pages 168-169)

The layout of this book is rather nice. On the left side, Tesch lays out a chronological timeline of the artist themselves and includes brief biographies of the artists, informative essays, anecdotal information and comparative illustrations. The brief biographies are nicely written and really help the reader understand and get the most important information about the artist’s life, very quickly. On the right side of every page is a full-colored reproduction of the artists’ most famous works of art. The printed images in this book are fit to the page and show nice detail of the artists artwork, making it very easy for the reader to view and admire.
I find this book interesting because as I start to learn about new upcoming contemporary artists I seem to forget about the earlier artists that have been such a great influence on today’s great artists. I often find myself referring back to this book to compare the art of today to earlier art. I also sometimes find that some of today’s artworks are replicas of earlier art (which I never knew of) and again, I find myself referring back to this book to get more needed information to better understand. Some artists such as, Dennis McGonagle, Mary Aslin, and Jessica Teal are just a few named contemporary artists that have been greatly influenced by great past artist, like some of the ones that are mentioned in Icons of Art the 20th Century.

- Jessica Aviles


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