What Makes a Masterpiece?

What Makes a Masterpiece?

Encounters with Great Works of Art

  1. Edited by Christopher Dell
See Inside
  • ISBN 9780500238790
  • 26.00 x 20.00 cm
  • Hardback
  • 304pp
  • 285 Illustrations, 265 in colour
  • First published 2010
‘Intelligent, lucid, intimate, the book is also beautifully illustrated’ – The Independent, Best Books for Christmas 2010
‘An art book that really sets you thinking … a feast of an anthology’ – The Spectator
‘Thought-provoking … the breadth of work considered is impressive and the essays are informative and inspiring … a passionate introduction to the world of great art’ – Metro
‘Brilliantly edited … worth buying for the introduction alone’ – Decanter

World masterpieces, from the Chauvet Cave to Cézanne, brought to life by internationally acclaimed artists, art historians, curators and critics

This collection of famous works presents a remarkable cultural chronicle, showing how artists throughout history have seen their world and chosen to represent it – seventy answers to the question ‘What makes a masterpiece?’

In this exploration of the idea of the masterpiece, distinguished artists, critics and art historians write about their personal encounters with the greatest artworks of all time, representing cultures from all over the world – from prehistory to Cézanne.
For example:

    Avigdor Arikha on Velázquez
    Quentin Blake on Tintoretto
    Mary Beard on The Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii
    Anthony Caro on Rodin
    Antony Gormley on The Reclining Buddha of Polonnaruwa
    Germaine Greer on Gentileschi
    Martin Kemp on Leonardo da Vinci
    John Julius Norwich on The Cefalú mosaics
    Grayson Perry on Bosch
    Tom Phillips on The Mycerinus Triad
    Philip Pullman on Manet
    Pierre Rosenberg on Poussin
    David J. Roxburgh on Sultan Muhammad
    Marina Warner on Bernini
    Roderick Whitfield on Zhang Zeduan and many others …

Read Quentin Blake on Degas online in Telegraph.co.uk

See the full List of Contributors

What Makes a Masterpiece? begins with animals depicted on the walls of Chauvet Cave, and moves through the worlds of the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans, embodied by images of royalty, war and mysterious religious rites. Medieval representations of Christ are celebrated alongside images of Vishnu, the Buddha and his priests, and the royal figures of South American and African civilizations. The jewels of Quattrocento italian art are on show beside the lesser-known triumphs of Aztec and Japanese court artists, while the masters of the European Renaissance and Baroque mingle with Mughal, Arab and Chinese virtuosos. The journey ends with the 19th century, depicted as an age of revolution, introspection and modernization.

Christopher Dell is a writer and art historian based in Barcelona. He studied at Winchester School of Art and the Courtauld Institute of Art, and has worked at the National Gallery, London, the Architectural Association, for the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (a medieval stained glass research project), and in art publishing.