Taschen's latest comprehensive tome focuses on the work of the greatest artist of Western civilisation - Michelangelo. In the beautifully designed Michelangelo: Complete Works, Taschen have really captured the artist's power and prestige. With many fold-outs of well-known frescos from the Sistine Chapel, such as the Creation of Adam, Noah and the Flood, the Divine Resurrection etc, along with highly detailed descriptions and theories surrounding their genesis.
A detail from the Conversion of Saul, from the Vatican's Pauline Chapel. A master of the dramatic, Michelangelo was one of few artists who could mix the divine with the grotesque, to emphasise emotions.
Despite being an avid art lover, I've not yet had chance to view any of Michelangelo's works in person, but this book has given me more than a good taster for what to expect. Ever since childhood I've marvelled at the sheer transcendental beauty that Michelangelo was able to conjure up. Like a sorcerer to me, he is one of the few artists that never fails to touch the deepest recesses of my mind and soul. The more I came to understand Michelangelo as a man as well as an artist, the more I was able to make sense of his creativity. He once said "The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection." Which to me meant that if an artist wants to capture the beautiful aesthetic, he must think beyond himself and the material world around him, and immerse himself in the realms of the divine.
Eve's falling foul of the snakes' charms and eating the forbidden apple, doomed mankind. Michelangelo's imagining of the events that led to Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden is highly detailed, particularly in the pairs facial expressions. You can see the dramatic deterioration of Eve, going from fresh-faced and exuberant, to withered, with a profound sadness etched on her face.
Never forget, much of Michelangelo's art is to be experienced in colossal form. It's only when you see it like this that you can truly appreciate the finer details and its transcendental qualities simultaneously. Taschen has made the impossible possible, with the books large dimensions, it's easy to become absorbed in every fresco, painting and sculpture. The expressions, movements and subtle nuances that become lost in small reproductions.
"In order to demonstrate his perfect knowledge of anatomy, he would bulge the muscles to a slight extreme and in this way emphasize them yet further, in order to present them prominently and proudly in the bodies in which nature had strengthened them." - Gian Paolo Lomazzo
It's not just the myriad paintings, both large and detailed, along with the carefully selected sketches, writings and mathematical drafts from Michelangelo, it's also the loving and studious descriptions of each period of Michelangelo's working life, written by Thomas Pöpper, Christof Thoenes and Frank Zöllner. Their love for the artistic giant rings out loud and clear. Taschen have once more produced a treasure of art historical appreciation.
Michelangelo: Complete Works is published by Taschen