PAUL CEZANNE: The Watercolors, by John Rewald (New York Graphic Society/Little, Brown, $150). Who could have imagined that pictures of apples and pears, painted by a local artist in Aix-en-Provence, would give rise to a revolution in art? But so it happened, as C,ezanne gradually planted the seeds that would blossom into abstraction, cubism, and much else in 20th-century painting. No one knows C,ezanne's work better than John Rewald and this catalogue raisonn,e o his watercolors may be the crowning achievement of some 50 years of study. A long essay, both color and black- and-white reproductions, and an extensive (and detailed) series of annotations make this a volume of major scholarly importance, one of those books that become a standard reference from the day they are published. BONNARD: The Late Paintings, (The Phillips Collection and Dallas Museum of Art, paperback, $28). The Phillips Collection -- excepting the Freer, the most attractive of Washington museums -- inaugurated its newly renovated look with an outstanding exhibition of Bonnard paintings. Those paintings, along with preliminary sketches, photographs, and essays by a host of Bonnard authorities, make up this album, at once scholarly in its presentation and absolutely luscious to look at. For Bonnard loved color and he achieved combinations and nuances that captivate with their sensuality, a sensuality enhanced by the subject matter: nudes, Provencal landscapes, delicious still lifes. Indeed, it would be marvelous to dwell in a late Bonnard painting, where life is a perennial Sunday afternoon of beauty and indolence. THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK: The History and the Collection, introduction by Sam Hunter (Abrams/Museum of Modern Art, $65). MOMA has been all the rage -- and occasional outrage -- ever since it was established in 1929. This lavish celebration of the museum nonetheless makes clear how quickly the contemporary becomes classic, for here are Rodin's Balzac and Duchamp-Villon's Horse, Matisse's Dance and Picasso's Three Musicians, a Munch madonna and a Toulouse-Lautrec clown (all chronicled by William Rubin). Riva Castleman contributes an expert survey of prints and illustrated books, and John Szarkowski nearly steals the show with his selections from the photography department: Stieglitz to Arbus. Also included are sections devoted to drawings, design, and film, the last ranging from early film strips to stills of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Bonnie and Clyde. Though hardly exhaustive -- MOMA owns some 100,000 works of art -- this volume with its 1,000 or so illustrations is certainly exhilarating.
MATISSE, by Pierre Schneider (Rizzoli, $95) THE SCULPTURE OF HENRI MATISSE, by Isabelle Monod-Fontaine (Thames and Hudson, $24.95); MATISSE PAPER CUTOUTS, by Jean Guichard-Meili (Thames and Hudson, $75). Matisse -- that most exuberant of modernists -- may well be on his way to outstripping Picasso as the 20th century's favorite artist. Of these three offerings the first is the most monumental, indeed rather dauntingly so, for it crowns 14 years of work by the leading Matisse scholar. The second, devoted primarily to the Master's bronzes, restores the sculpture to a prominent position in Matisse's oeuvre. The last, however, is the book that charms: these brightly colored cut-outs, often displayed as paper friezes, remind us that in his bedridden old age Matisse achieved, to steal a phrase, an apotheosis of the dance.
A TOUTE EPREUVE, by Joan Miro and Paul Eluard (Braziller, $75). Words and pictures have gone together almost as long as words and music. But in the 20th century the livre d'artiste has enjoyed a remarkable blossoming: Matisse, Picasso, and Ernst all illustrated or created "picture" books to texts of contemporary writers, Joyce among them. Among the more remarkable of these collaborations is this one: Miro was commissioned by publisher Gerald Cramer to create an art-album inspired by poems of Paul Eluard. In these poems, a surrealist celebration of sexual love, Catalonia, and the imagination, Eluard's haunting lines are surrounded by sprightly circles, oblongs, stars, and squiggles, wood-engravings paying homage to graffiti, the hallmark of Miro's child- like art. As usual, Braziller has executed a remarkable facsimile of the original, and added a long essay by Anne Hyde Greet to clarify the history and meaning of this striking, yet enigmatic, work of art.
DALI: The Work, The Man, by Robert Descharnes; translated from the French by Eleanor R. Morse (Abrams, $145). There may be no more famous living artist than Dali, who celebrated his 80th birthday this year. From The Persistence of Memory (with its soft watches) and the surrealist film classic Un Chien Andalou to the controversial religious paintings (Crucifixion, The Last Supper) or the Young Virgin Auto- Sodomized by Her Own Chastity Dali has never failed to provoke, startle, and shock. Is he a great painter? Or is he merely a self-promoting charlatan? Probably more of the latter than the former. But, for all his poster-art schlockiness, he does possess a remarkable talent for creating eerie backdrops, canvases filled with mental deserts, disturbing juxtapositions of the everyday and the nightmarish. To look at Dali's best work is to shudder before an eternal and infinite emptiness.