The Ultimate Art Museum

I can’t get enough of coffee table books. They feel indulgent with their oversized pages, substantial weight, glossy paper. They’re always fascinating, packed with photos, ideas and inspiration. Here’s the first of five coffee table book reviews.

The Ultimate Art Museum by Ferren Gipson is classified as a children’s book but that’s nonsense – this is a book for anyone, any age, any background. It’s art through the ages, arranged and displayed in unique ways with plenty of informative tidbits to keep you turning the pages.

This museum in book form contains over 200 pages of rich art and history from 40,000 years ago to the present. It’s cleverly divided into three wings and even though the intended audience is a child it isn’t dumbed down. I enjoyed the tour, lingering over art that spoke to me and moving quickly past things that didn’t. Just like in a real museum!

I was struck with wonder the instant I saw the hands. Cueva de las Manos aka Cave of the Hands is in Argentina and dates back to between 11,000-7,500 BCE. The vivid color of these stenciled hand prints comes from the original plant-based ink: chewed up plants. It’s kind of eerie looking but also timeless – think of children’s Thanksgiving turkeys traced from their tiny hands.

I saw many of my favorite artists in The Ultimate Art Museum and discovered new ones as well. And I learned so much, for example, the long-fingered hand design that you see everywhere? It comes from the Hopewell peoples, an Early Woodland culture who lived in what is now Ohio, and is a symbol of power.

So let’s see, if a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m trying to use words to describe works of art, how many words do I need? Hopefully less than 1,000. Here are some paintings that left an impression on me. (The Ultimate Art Museum contains all forms of art: sculpture, artifacts, mobiles and more, but my heart is with paint on canvas.)

Wayne Thiebaud: Two Lemon Meringue Pies. I just love the colors and how it’s deceptively simple. These pies look ready for a bite! It went for $374K in a Christies auction 10 years ago. Click here for the listing and painting

Leonardo da Vinci’s- Lady with an Ermine drew me in with the simplicity of the young woman, her dress and necklace, and the cute little ermine. They kind of have the same expression on their faces! Apparently da Vinci thought of ermines as “pure creatures.” You can see it in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, Poland and coincidentally there’s a new book about the Lady:

The book called Albrecht Durer’s self-portrait from 1500, when he was 28 years old, a “moody selfie.” Love it. Per Wikipedia “art historians consider it the most personal, iconic and complex of his self-portraits.” Also, he was hot. You can see it in a museum in Munich, or via this virtual tour

Flower Garden by Gustav Klimt just makes me happy. Click here for a joyous smile of a painting.

The colors and tones of Amnta Shor-gil’s Three Girls captivated me. The girls look so serene and serious and beautiful.

Helen Frankenthaler painted Black-eyed Susan in 1988. It’s color-soaked, color-washed and painted in the “Color Field” style. I don’t pretend to understand how washes and sploshes and blobs of colors can move me but this one does.

Alma Thomas – Springtime in Washington, painted in 1971. It looks like a bright braided rug or a mosaic.

Clearly I could go on and on but it’s time for you to plan your visit to the Ultimate Art Museum. Get inspired. Be moved. Stir your soul.

If you want to know more here’s a great interview with the author:

3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Art Museum

  1. That was an amazing commentary on the coffee table book. A great book is one that is so well written, it appeals to and can be understood by any age group or gender.

    I didn’t listen to the author in the link – ran out of time.

    Keep up the great reviews!!


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