Book review: Body of Art

This new release from Phaidon on the representation of the body in art is both comprehensive and compelling. An impressive range of work is discussed, from the ancient to the modern, and covering sculpture, painting, performance and more. The book opens with a critical essay by Jennifer Blessing which is accessible and engaging. The following chapters are grouped thematically: ‘beauty’, ‘identity’, ‘power’, and so on. This approach is effective, allowing interesting pairings to emerge. We see Vanessa Blessing’s VB 46 (2001) alongside Kritios Boy, by an unknown artist (c.490-480 BC), for example, and, later, Ai Wei Wei’s One Tiger, Eight Breasts (2010) alongside Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (1830). The colour illustrations of each work are accompanied by a short piece explaining its significance. Naturally, given their length, these serve to intrigue as much as they inform, and will provide plenty of fodder for the curious. The same is true for the book as a whole: Body of Art is thorough in its chronological and thematic inclusions, whilst its written elements ask as many questions as they answer.

Originally published in Aesthetica.

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