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Velazquez: The Technique of Genius Paperback – September 1, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Velazquez: The Technique of Genius is an illuminating introduction to what can be learnt from the surface of the pictures... It is built round illustrations of details, nearly all from paintings in the Prado." Peter Campbell, London Review of Books "A ravishingly beautiful, highly informative book. Brown and Garrido work well together, interweaving the artistic/historical background with the messy forensic facts effortlessly; the detail is stunning." George Crisp, Art Review

From the Back Cover

"Vel‡zquez: The Technique of Genius is an illuminating introduction to what can be learnt from the surface of the pictures. . . . It is built round illustrations of details, nearly all from paintings in the Prado."-Peter Campbell, London Review of Books; "A ravishingly beautiful, highly informative book. Brown and Garrido work well together, interweaving the artistic/historical background with the messy forensic facts effortlessly; the detail is stunning."-George Crisp, Art Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300101244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300101249
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 9.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,371,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Greg on April 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I think the first reviewer has mentioned the important points, but I would highlight some of the conclusions.
The purpose of this book is to apply the tools of art history and conservation to the practical question of how Velasquez painted his masterpieces. This is a topic of primary interest to practicing painters, and it is an approach that may prove fruitful in the future, but I think is only moderately successful here.
The important contribution of this book is the large number of close up views of a small number of paintings. The image quality is good, though not of the highest quality.
The text and analysis does address the practical question of how the paintings were constructed, but only provides rather shallow results. The ground used, the pigment selection, additions to the canvas - these topics are well covered. But the more involved question of how the paint layers were developed was not really explained. In the end there is little information for someone seeking to understand precisely how these paintings were made.
As the first reviewer mentioned, the art historical background has a sort of "rah rah" quality. For example, referring to The Fable of Arachne: "The expressive potential of color posited in the works of Titian is here [by Velasquez] exploited in ways that this venerated old master could never have conceived."
How many stars should you give to the only book on this very important topic? If you are a painter you have to buy it. I give it three stars, and will keep the book for the illustrations.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The previous review by Greg Munger is pretty much right on. Although there's tons of information in regards to the pigments, binders, radiographs etc., for each painting, there is very little significant insight into Velazquez's technique that would be of any real interest (or help) to someone trying to emulate his style.

All this could have been forgiven if not for the inconsistent and sometimes Horrendous image quality of the paintings - in particular the closeups - a fact that no one else seems to have picked up on. In "The Forge of Vulcan", you will see that the colors of the same painting are significantly different in each and every closeup. While in another, "Feast of Bacchus", the detail photo of Bacchus' face is totally overexposed. There are even some blurry photos which were inexplicably never taken out of the book (having a competent photographer for this book would have made all the difference). I was also disappointed to find that two of my favorite Velazquez paintings, "Innocent X" and "Juan de Pareja" - two of the finest portraits ever done - were not in this volume. Kind of a bummer since this is my only book on the painter.

I guess this book isn't THAT bad - just not as good as the other reviews would have you believe. In all honestly, I read this book right after reading Ernst van de Wetering's excellent 'Rembrandt: Painter at work' and I was hoping for more of the same. If not for the poor quality of some of the closeups I might have given it another star, as it is I'm still on the lookout for a good book on Velazquez.
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Format: Hardcover
This recent addition to my Velazquez collection, is by far the best yet on the technique of this master painter. Jonathan Brown has again produced a book with wonderful information and reproductions. A must have for the Art historian, Art lover, and Fanatic of Velazquez!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a shame that when I ordered this from Amazon back in 2008, that I didn't carefully check it. I bought it with hopes of getting to it later and though I did peruse it, I didn't carefully check the pagination. Who would think to? Well I should have, (see below) because there were two areas where the pages were seriously out of place and - as far as I can tell - some pages are missing. This is the second book published by the Yale University Press that I have bought with serious printing errors. The first was one volume of the John Singer Sargent series. In that case contacting Yale Univ Press directly got me a replacement copy, but although I'll try, I don't know if I have much hope. I find the reproductions to be of high quality, I must say.
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Format: Paperback
This book enables the reader to not only penetrate some of Velasquez's secrets, but also to focus on some wonderfully photographed details of his most famous paintings (brushstrokes are even distinguishable in some cases). It is almost better than a museum experience, since in museums you are usually kept at a certain distance from such precious works. To the professional artist, it undoubtedly gives valuable insights on the great master's skills and technique; to the layman like myself, it gives a unique opportunity to enter the sphere of high art.
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Format: Paperback
A great value book, a lot of technical information, amazing photographs, detailed zooms, biographical information, methods and techniques used by the spanish painter, pigments and binders, brush expression, etc., etc....

The only complaint is that the book has not a solid construction, at the very first reads groups of pages threatened to separate from the spine
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Brown and Garrido has something remarkable with this book. They provide detailed technical analyses of many of Velazquez's principal works, discussing both his use of pigments and his application of paints. Close-up photographs illustrate details that shed light on the distinguishing features of Velazquez's paintings -- the thin layers of heavily diluted pigment and the rapid, hurried brushstrokes which bring his subjects to life. The photographs are large and the text illuminating. A highly worthwhile purchase. Brown's solo work on Velazquez's career makes a wonderful accompaniment.
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