THE COMPLETE PRINTS OF LEONARD BASKIN: A Catalogue Raisonn,e 1948-1983, by Alan Fern and Judith O'Sullivan (New York Graphic Society, $65). No one has ever called Leonard Baskin's prints pretty: they are too bleak and predatory, a mingling of primitive fetish and Gothic gargoyle, overlaid with modern angst, touched with madness. This catalogue reproduces Baskin's wood engravings, etchings, and lithographs, provides appropriate annotation for each, and includes a longish appreciation by poet Ted Hughes.
THE GRAPHIC WORK OF HOWARD COOK: A Catalogue Raisonn,e, by Betty and Douglas Duffy (The Bethesda Art Gallery, 7950 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda, Md. 20814, $35). Though the proletarian writing of the '20s and '30s seems impossibly dated, that period's prints and photographs remain as fresh and powerful as ever. Printmakers like Howard Cook show us the cubist geometry of an Edison Plant, the uplift of the New York skyline, the jazzy energy -- and loneliness -- of urban life. An art of blacks and whites, of scratches on metal or gouges in wood, Cook's work (like that of his contemporaries Rockwell Kent, Clare Leighton, and Louis Lozowick) seems more patriotic than polemical, a celebration of America's industry, landscape and people.
AMERICAN PORTRAIT PRINTS, edited by Wendy Wick Reaves (National Portrait Gallery/University Press of Virginia, $20). Edited by the curator of prints at the National Portrait Gallery, this handsome volume gathers some eight papers devoted to the historical, technical, and esthetic development of engraved and drawn portraits during the 19th century. The artists studied are relatively unknown, but the essays show how important their pictures could be -- as illustrations for books, as lithographs to hang in the parlor, as daguerreotypes for a family album. Aln Fern's final essay surveys the portrait print in the early 20th century, especially as a means of social comment and ironic self-reflection.
JACOPO BELLINI: The Louvre Album of Drawings, edited by Bernhard Degenhart and Annegrit Schmitt; translated by Frank Mecklenburg (Braziller, $80). As libraries (and other people) well know, reproduction can be a means of preservation. Bellini's magisterial album of drawings -- a key document in the history of Venetian art and in the transition from the flat planes of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance use of perspective -- has become extremely fragile and increasingly susceptible to damage in handling. But by using a facsimile whenever possible, the original parchment will last longer; thus the justification for this full-size, careful reproduction. Bellini's subjects -- Saints Sebastian, George, and Christopher, pagan temples, mythological and allegorical matters, scenes from the life of Christ -- all are rendered with a delicacy, assurance, and vividness that points up, in breathtaking fashion, the gulf between real drawing and mere doodling.
THE DRAWINGS OF JOSEF ALBERS, by Nicholas Fox Weber (Yale University Press, $35). Albers was long an important influence on modern art through his teaching (Black Mountain, Yale) as well as his practice. But those who know only his studies of color or his geometrically patterned drawings will be in for a treat here: his early drawings, discovered only after his death, are realistic, playful, and just plain charming (it's hard to sketch a serious goose). Weber's biographical-critical essay sets all this work, both early and late, into the context of Alber's artistic career.