Albeit with a deal more elegance, NDE Publishing's 100 Paintings series succeeds in doing for legendary works of art what the "Dummies" books have done for computer software: making its subjects accessible to novices. A book per painting, authored by the late esteemed art historian and critic Federico Zeri, provides a perfect serving size of insight into what makes each masters' work great. Quality high-gloss paper renders reproductions of multiple paintings by each artist superbly, while Zeri's succinctly accurate language yields analyses that have a broad appeal across many levels of both age and familiarity with art.
What makes the books in the 100 Paintings series especially collectable as a group is the homogenousness of their presentation. Each book, from da Vinci to Dali, features not only the title painting but a wide range of additional works. Magnified details highlight techniques, recurring themes and points of particular interest. The arrangement of each volume follows a similar sequence, drawing the reader quickly from a brief narrative of the story behind the title painting into a deeper scrutiny of the work, its maker and his milieu. The genius of each master is examined -- with Vermeer, for example, it is his unique rendering of light; with Chagall, the poetic mystical spirit spanning his long and illustrious career; with Manet, his role as "a painter of modern life" and as one of the fathers of Impressionism distinguish his works.
Every volume wraps up its exegesis with "The Artistic Journey" -- an illustrated chronological summary of the artist's principal works -- and with a "To Know More" section, which contains excerpts of documents and testimonies to enrich the reader's understanding of the artist and his work, a timeline of important dates in his life, and technical data and location of principal works featured in the book. An essential bibliography directs the reader to other important sources on the artist. As of early 2001, twenty of the eventual one hundred titles have been published. With such quality production and reasonable pricing, the 100 Paintings are likely to become standard introductions to the legendary masters of the visual arts.