Our critic selects her picks of this year's best art books

From Hockney to Kahlo, here’s a festive feast for the eyes: Our critic selects her picks of this year’s best art books

  • Bel Mooney has rounded up a selection of this year’s best art books
  • Sarah Drummond reveals historical truth in Divine Love: The Art Of The Nativity 
  • Angela Harding introduces her printing press techniques in A Year Unfolding  

DIVINE LOVE: THE ART OF THE NATIVITY   

by Sarah Drummond (Unicorn £25, 132 pp)

DIVINE LOVE: THE ART OF THE NATIVITY by Sarah Drummond (Unicorn £25, 132 pp)

This appealing volume should be in every household this Christmas, shining beams of light on an iconic scene at once familiar, yet strange.

Knowledgeable, accessible and beautifully illustrated, this tour through images of Christ’s Nativity (pictured right) reveals historical truth, artistic interpretation and Christian meaning in a celebration of the great story. Why are the ox and ass always present? Why is Jesus left on the ground in some works? Where did the Magi come from and were they kings or astrologers? There’s still so much to learn — in a spirit of wonder.

A YEAR UNFOLDING   

A YEAR UNFOLDING by Angela Harding (Sphere £20, 192 pp)

by Angela Harding (Sphere £20, 192 pp)

Printmaking is a democratic art, the opposite of one-off exclusivity. That’s why many people have seen Angela Harding’s stylish lino and silkscreen images of the natural world on greetings cards, book jackets and even tea towels, without knowing the name of the artist. But this collection of her work will surely gain her more fans.

Harding introduces her home environment, her printing press and her techniques, then takes us on a ramble through the seasons, with well-loved poems to match each one.

Ploughed fields, cloudy skies and leafy hedges are populated with birds, hedgehogs, foxes and other wildlife, combining to offer a unique, glorious vision of a calm, ever-changing but eternally beautiful natural world that must be cherished. Inspirational.

SPRING CANNOT BE CANCELLED by David Hockney and Martin Gayford (Thames & Hudson £25, 280 pp)

SPRING CANNOT BE CANCELLED   

by David Hockney and Martin Gayford (Thames & Hudson £25, 280 pp)

In an age of ‘cancellation’, this is surely the most optimistic book title of the year — and Hockney’s palette is always vibrant with the glorious, acid promise of fresh new leaves.

If you love his work, this set of uplifting ‘conversations’ between artist and critic-friend will rekindle your passion; if you are indifferent to the Hockney style, you will surely find yourself converted.

Before Covid, the artist made his home in Normandy to find peace and paint the changing seasons in all their greens, azures and pinks. Many of those paintings are here, interspersed with great artworks by Monet, van Gogh and others, which Hockney discusses with Gayford.

A feast for eye, mind and soul.

FRIDA KAHLO: THE COMPLETE PAINTINGS by Andrea Kettenmann, Luis-Martin Lozano and Marina Vazquez Ramos (Taschen £150, 624 pp)

FRIDA KAHLO: THE COMPLETE PAINTINGS   

by Andrea Kettenmann, Luis-Martin Lozano and Marina Vazquez Ramos (Taschen £150, 624 pp)

What a book! Magnificent and hefty, it almost needs its own coffee table, but, once installed, would provide a lifetime of looking.

A stupendously lavish production, with fold-out pages, personal photographs, diary pages and (of course) all her work, there’s also copious biographical detail of one of the most famous women in 20th-century art.

The Mexican genius Frida Kahlo was a pioneer of feminism as well as political revolution and artistic originality. Her 50 astonishing self-portraits have acquired the kind of fame, familiarity and reverence that truly merits the overused term ‘iconic’.

Expensive, yes, but, to any art-lover, this Kahlo-bible is worth every penny.

To buy any book reviewed here, visit mailshop.co.uk/ books or call 020 3176 2937.

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