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Paul McCartney: Paintings Hardcover – September, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tony Bennett, David Byrne, and occasionally David Bowie all do it--they make art. With the introduction of Paul McCartney: Paintings, we can now add the famous Beatle to the list. The book is a catalog of paintings from McCartney's 1999 exhibition in Germany. Music and art have many things in common; for McCartney it is the freedom to "play" that connects both endeavors. Fittingly, his paintings draw most of their influence from abstract expressionism, in which the material quality of the paint itself inspires the drips, blobs, and splatters. His paintings range from cartoon-like figures and faces to open landscapes. The colors are dynamic with varying thicknesses of paint, some with marks scratched into the surface, all with stories and symbolic value.

From the illustrations and accompanying essays to the very candid interview, we are given remarkable insight into McCartney's practice as a committed creative person. He confides his insecurities as a painter who has never gone to art school, and his defining moments as an artist both musically and visually. There is an unusually generous section in which McCartney discusses many of the paintings in the book; it's a behind-the-scenes look as he elaborates on the personal meanings behind certain symbols, tells stories and anecdotes, and acknowledges his painterly influences, specifically Willem de Kooning. Also included are personal photographs of the artist at work, 117 color illustrations, and 17 duotone photographs. --J.P. Cohen

From Publishers Weekly

Yes, it's him, and no, they're not bad. In 1982, after years spent as a collector and in the company of artists, McCartney began painting his first canvases, inspired (as he notes repeatedly in the various interviews here), primarily by the late Willem de Kooning, who lived down the road from him at the time. The paintings he produced then and sinceAselected here in 117 color illustrations and 17 duotone photosAreadily show the late de Kooning's influence: lush color washes, careful blocking of the canvas, airy abstraction. The problem is that none of McCartney's paintings in this style approach his models in terms of brush work, or significance. Inane titles and commentary on the work do not help matters. McCartney and interlocutor Wolfgang Suttner, a culture bureaucrat in the German county of Siegen-Wittgenstein, have the following exchange over Big Mountain Face, which furnishes the book's cover: Suttner: "It is the McCartney style, it is drainage. I think we talked about this picture being like the face in the mountain." McCartney: "Yes, like Mount Rushmore, the monumental faces of American presidents. It's as if someone has carved this great big face on the side of the mountain." A loose assortment of little-known art journalists with varying degrees of separation from McCartney (one was "supported by McCartney" in a gallery endeavor and is a former editor of the Beatles' literary imprint, Zapple), provide further insights into works like Boxer lips, Sea God, Mr. Kipps; Brains on Fire and Bowie Spewing (McCartney: "Which means being sick"). But the paintings are pleasant to look at, at times evoking Philip Guston (White Dream) and '80s landscape artist Christian Brechneff, and fans will be happy to see their man has a hobby at which he excels. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Bulfinch; 1st edition (September 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0821226738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0821226735
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 0.8 x 12.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Paul McCartney only cautiously agreed to publish this book of paintings, fearing, quite rightly, he would be categorized as just a 'celebrity painter' - the Stallone and Curtis kind. "I know I'll be getting a few snide comments for doing this book - it seems that if you approach the art world by one route, that's OK, but if you've come via another route, then it invites prejudice. In fact [...], one 'critic' wrote that I 'shouldn't be allowed to do this.'"
The simple, almost child-like honesty with which McCartney comments on this crossing into a different field, manifests itself in his paintings: they carry schoolboy-naughty titles like 'The Queen After Her First Cigarette' and 'Bowie Spitting', often display bright, simple colors, and have the kind of surprised pleasantness - for example "Ancient Connections" - which is often associated with children.
That said, his work is actually pretty good. Its diversity (there are abstract paintings, figurative paintings, portraits, surrealist ones) is a plus, as is the execution, which reveals McCartney has a keen eye for colors and shapes (composition and detail, i.e. the more technical side of painting, are of lesser interest to McCartney, who said: 'I like the primitive approach, so if I learn to sail I don't take sailing lessons: I get into a boat and capsize a lot. It's actually very much my philosophy and it works equally well in painting and in music.')
For people who are unaware, it should be pointed out that McCartney was a key figure in sixties' London, not only in the music field but also in the underground movement, doing collages, experimental music (long before Lennon), and drawings for the International Times paper and Indica Gallery, as well as collecting Magrittes and befriending Willem De Kooning.
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Format: Hardcover
Regardless of the high brow reviews of this book, I chose to purchase this book to see if this was another celebrity who found art and realized their celebrity could sell their art. Bottom line I had hoped that McCartney's personality would triuumph and his down to earth philoposphy would come through. Indeed it did and this is the first Unpretentious book on Art I have ever read. If anyone has the desire to paint, draw or create but is held back through social conditioninig this book is for you. McCartney albeit through interviews and ghost writers tells how he himself freed himself from his own perfectionist procrastination mode and at the age of 40 painted. What resulted I found to be liberating in the way that in his celebrity circle of friedns he learned from William De Kooning how to "kill the canvas" and get over the fear of standing in front of a blank canvas. Additionaly McCartney goes onto explain his creative process for his paintings again influenced by De Kooning. He discussed how he would write a friends name on a canvas or a sketch or just a smudge of paint and see what stimulated his creative enery to produce and be led by creativity instead of coming to the easle prepared with a pre-conceived idea. McCartney never pretends to be a De Kooning or indeed a high brow artist. He comes across as someone who enjoys the process and output that art offers. Through his own conditioning he is also seeking the feedback for his efforts, regardless of the technicalities I for one see his work as inspirational and has encouraged me to go and "kill the canvas" myself.
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Format: Hardcover
It's a joy to flip through this book of wildly inventive faces and colorful dreamscapes. There is a freedom and a vibrance to McCartney's paintings, that, like his music, can't help but draw you in and infect you with a buoyant kind of wonder.
These paintings tear at the boundaries of what you think can and can't be done. They're appealing and yet completely unpredictable. In short, they are paintings from the same imagination that came up with both "I Will" and "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" and then had the not-so-common-sense to put them back-to-back on the same record.
McCartney is obviously setting the artist inside free with these bold, bright canvases. Whether this is great art, that is really a question that each pair of eyes must answer in its own way, in its own unique language.
I for one am glad that McCartney has chosen to make his paintings public. I find these colorful canvases, and the artisitic courage that propelled them into being, quite inspiring.
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By A Customer on December 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is not expressly about McCartney's art as it is about the creative process. Many of these paintings are reminiscent in some ways of outsider art (art brut). Much of it is primitive/naive art, but all of it provokes (at least for me) a great deal of joy. Paging through it, I found myself laughing out loud at the silly characters -- Shock Head, Green Head, etc -- that reveal a glimpse into the soul of one of this centuries more creative people. I live in New York and see a lot of art (some extraordinary, much of it quite bad). But in the last year alone, I have been privileged to see works by Egon Schiele, Sue Coe, Edward Gorey,and Lucian Freud, to name but a few. I would hardly call McCartney a master, but he is competent and he's much fun. To the reviewer who dismissed McCartney's art out-of-hand, citing that it was John who was the art student: art (true art) is not about precision or literal interpretation. Quite the contrary. It's about freedom. Breaking out of the box. It's other worldly. McCartney's stuff, on that level, succeeds.
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