PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA, by Kenneth Clark; BERNINI, by Rudolf Wittkower (Cornell, $75; $58.50). Two classic texts in art history: Clark's study has been updated slightly; it retains special value both for its pleasing style and for its historical importance in reinstating Piero della Francesca among the masters of the Italian Renaissance. The Wittkower volume reproduces the third edition of an equally distinguished work; despite much recent scholarship on Bernini, it remains an expert and authoritative introduction to the greatest of baroque sculptors. The many close- up, detailed photographs make both volumes especially exciting.
MASTERPIECES FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE PRINCES OF LIECHTENSTEIN, by Reinhold Baumstark (Hudson Hills Press, $100). Perhaps the most elegant art book of the season--slipcased, handsomely printed, with warm-toned reproductions--this volume surveys the holdings of the rulers of this small principality. Included are fine paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck, as well as good work by other masters of the Northern Baroque including Ruysdael, Steen and Hals.
CHINOISERIE: Chinese Influence on European Decorative Art, 17th and 18th Centuries, by Madeleine Jarry (Vendome Press, $75). Just as Japanese art influenced European painters at the end of the 19th century, so did Chinese culture form the standards of decorative art during the rococo. Textiles, wallpapers, ceramics, furniture, and objets d'art, all reflected swirling patterns, bird, flower and dragon motifs, and even colors, especially celadon green and lacquered yellow, adopted from Chinese art.
SIR EDWIN LANDSEER, by Richard Ormond, with contributions by Joseph Rishel and Robin Hamlyn (Rizzoli, $45). Clunky Victorian furniture has recently become a hot item among antiquers; the past few book season's have brought new biographies of Tennyson, Ruskin and other eminent Victorians. So, the ground has been prepared for reevaluating Landseer. Queen Victoria's favorite artist, Landseer is a masterly painter of wild life, and especially of the Scottish Highlands. But like Stubbs' horses, Landseer's dogs may be underappreciated because they are unromantic and more suitable for the den than the drawing room. Still, as this fine book demonstrates, even at his most sentimental Landseer could paint with a surgeon's eye for detail.
PHANTOMS OF THE IMAGINATION, by A.M. Hammacher (Abrams, $45). Not content with classical themes or realistic scenes, some artists--Bosch, Blake, Fuseli, Ernst, Magritte--have preferred the landscape of dream and nightmare. This appreciation surveys the fantastic imagination in both art and literature (Coleridge, Poe, Lautr,eamont), making comparisons between the two arts.
JAPONISME: The Japanese Influence on Western Art in the 19th and 20th Centuries, by Siegfried Wichmann (Harmony, $75). Even as Kipling asserted that East was East and West was West, European artists were being swept up in a wave of "Japonisme." The influence of Hokusai and Utamaro--to name only the best known--transformed late 19th-century art; one need only drop by the Peacock Room at the Freer to see the effect on Whistler. Wichmann, a distinguished German scholar and former curator at the Pinakothek, organizes his monumental study in an original fashion: he demonstrates Japanese influence on a few major European artists (Manet, D,egas), then considers pictorial devices such as birds, beasts and flowers, turns next to compositional techniques and symbols, and concludes with a survey of ceramics, glass and calligraphy. Heavily illustrated, the book is exciting if only to compare a Mary Cassatt pastel with a Japanese robe or the darks and brights of woodcuts by Felix Valloton and some Japanese masters. Beautiful to look at, this volume has the feel of a study that will last.
PICASSO: The Early Years, 1881-1907, by Josep Palau i Fabre (Rizzoli, $160). More than just a scholarly study and catalogue of Picasso's work, this massive volume is also a scrapbook, memoir and anthology of his life and pronouncements. Fabre, a Spanish authority on Picasso, reproduces some 1,500 works here, in what will no doubt become a standard reference on the artist's early career.
AD REINHARDT, by Lucy Lippard (Abrams, $65). Like Mallarm,e, who yearned to produce the poem, Reinhardt aimed to achieve a single, all-consuming painting, a black hole (or rather black square) which would absorb all art, all vision. The result was the famous monochromes--paintings that seem to be merely a single color, usually black, but which upon closer inspection reveal immense inner activity, often geometrical shapes of a subtly altered value or hue. Reproducing such an evocative, nearly invisible art must have been difficult, but the plates in this book, along with Lippard's text, make clear the transcendent quality of Reinhardt's work as well as the social commitment of the artist.