Picture the perfect present: From war’s true colours to the Stones at home, 2020’s best illustrated books by Marcus Berkmann
- Marcus Berkmann rounded up a selection of this year’s best illustrated books
- British literary critic selected tomes to suit all budgets this Christmas
- Highlights include Off The Walls and Old Homes, New Life
GALAXIES: INSIDE THE UNIVERSE’S STAR CITIES by David J. Eicher (Wildfire £25)
GALAXIES: INSIDE THE UNIVERSE’S STAR CITIES
by David J. Eicher (Wildfire £25)
Space, the final frontier. As a big fan of space, I always assumed it was rather black up there, with nothing very much to see. But these amazing photos show the universe as a riot of colour and exceptional beauty. The sheer numbers take the breath away: trillions of stars, billions of galaxies, the distances vast and unbreachable.
Eicher, who is editor-in-chief of Astronomy magazine, writes wonderfully well about all this, supplying a wealth of information. I had no idea, for instance, that the black hole at the centre of our galaxy is 4.3 million times the size of our Sun. Probably worth steering clear of, then.
DOGS: PHOTOGRAPHS 1941- 1991
by Walter Chandoha (Taschen £40)
DOGS: PHOTOGRAPHS 1941- 1991 by Walter Chandoha (Taschen £40)
Chandoha, who died last year, was an American photographer of animals who eventually came to specialise in woofers, barkers and yappers.
According to one newspaper, ‘walking the supermarket pet-food aisle in the 1960s was like attending a Chandoha gallery opening: almost every brand used his work on its packaging at one point’.
This huge, lavish book is simply lots of photographs of dogs, but Chandoha seems to get inside their heads, and there isn’t a trace of sentimentality in the images.
OFF THE WALLS
OFF THE WALLS (Getty £10.99)
At the beginning of quarantine the elves at Getty asked themselves how art could be a tonic for people stuck at home twiddling their thumbs.
Their answer was to issue their readers with a challenge: pick a favourite artwork, find three objects in your house, recreate the artwork with those items, share it online. This is a collection of those photographs.
Some are ingenious, others endearing, others laugh-out-loud funny. I particularly liked the self-portraits of Van Gogh, with Vincent replaced by a dog. And the loo rolls replacing the Elizabethan ruff is nothing short of inspired.
THE WORLD AFLAME: THE LONG WAR, 1914- 1945 by Dan Jones and Marina Amaral (Head of Zeus £25)
THE WORLD AFLAME: THE LONG WAR, 1914- 1945
by Dan Jones and Marina Amaral (Head of Zeus £25)
Marina Amaral is a Brazilian artist who specialises in the colourisation of old black-and-white photos, and this book takes more than 200 photos of war and gives them unexpected life.
This image (above) of the Christmas Truce in December 1914, with soldiers from the 5th London Rifle Brigade and German Saxon regimental troops at Ploegsteert Wood in Flanders, is made vividly, shockingly real.
These events look as though they took place last week, not, as in some cases, more than a century ago. Historian Dan Jones provides a cogent and unobtrusive commentary.
You may feel that you have seen it all before; this book triumphantly suggests otherwise.
OLD HOMES, NEW LIFE by Clive Aslet and Dylan Thomas (Triglyph £50)
OLD HOMES, NEW LIFE
by Clive Aslet and Dylan Thomas (Triglyph £50)
This magnificent volume, subtitled The Resurgence Of The British Country House, is pure property porn.
It takes you on a tour of 12 privately owned country houses, each of which has been restored to its full glory with great taste and oodles of money. And all is completely perfect: no one will be stepping on a piece of Lego here. My mother, on learning that this was to be her Christmas gift, looked fit to burst with joy.
LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR: COLLECTION 13 (AA Publishing £26)
LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR: COLLECTION 13
(AA Publishing £26)
The standards in this annual volume simply get higher and higher. One thing I love is that some of these pictures are chance occurrences: see it, point the camera, snap. While, for others, the photographer has had to sit in the same place and wait for the right shot for hours, days, weeks.
by Tom Jackson (Amber £19.99)
BEARS by Tom Jackson (Amber £19.99)
While I wouldn’t want to be in the same postal district as a bear any time soon, it’s curiously relaxing to leaf through a large book filled with pictures of the animals.
Nature writer Tom Jackson provides captions, but the meat and drink of this book is the photos, which show every imaginable type of bear foraging, sleeping, climbing trees, nurturing their young and sitting around daydreaming about being a bear.
It almost goes without saying that, though they might rip you apart limb from limb in real life, here they look impossibly sweet.
Try not to sing The Bare Necessities as you read.
MANFRED THIERRY MUGLER PHOTOGRAPHER (Abrams £90)
MANFRED THIERRY MUGLER PHOTOGRAPHER
Fashion is, of course, a world apart, and the French designer Thierry Mugler, now aged 71, has been a prominent part of that world since 1973.
Not only designing his own clothes but staging his shows and directing his advertising campaigns, Mugler also finds time to take frankly bizarre photographs of his various creations, usually being worn in the Sahara Desert or on what looks like the set of Blade Runner.
This is a collection of 150 of pictures, a testament to the unfettered bounds of the imagination if you have a budget to match. It’s beautiful, it’s frankly bonkers and there’s a wild nobility to it all you can’t help but admire.
GOIN’ HOME WITH THE ROLLING STONES ’66
GOIN’ HOME WITH THE ROLLING STONES ’66 by Gered Mankowitz (Reel Art Press £19.95)
by Gered Mankowitz (Reel Art Press £19.95)
Were the Rolling Stones ever this young? Was anyone ever this young?
In 1965, Gered Mankowitz was a fresh-faced 18-year-old snapper who fell in with the Stones and ended up photographing them at their homes, relaxing like normal people.
For the next half-century, he kept the films in a bag under his desk, ‘and I frequently wondered why I continued to hold on to them’. Because they’re wonderful, that’s why.
Mick Jagger loitering on a roof, Keith Richards cuddling a dog in his garden, Charlie Watts next to his washing: in manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s words, it’s ‘a remarkable telling of the time and the end of the innocence’.
ACCIDENTALLY WES ANDERSON
by Wally Koval (Trapeze £25)
ACCIDENTALLY WES ANDERSON by Wally Koval (Trapeze £25)
Anyone who has seen the films of Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel) will know that they are all incredibly colourful, geometrically artificial in construction and wonderfully, wryly entertaining. This book has nothing to do with those films. It’s a quest to travel the world and photograph locations that should have been in Wes Anderson films. Huge numbers of people have taken part and Wally Koval, who may be a little mad, has collected these disparate images and captioned them.
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