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David Burnett

Edmonton, Hurtig, 1990. 230pp, cloth, $49.95
ISBN 0-88830-344-0. CIP

Grades 8 and up/Ages 13 and up
Reviewed by Brenda Reed.

Volume 19 Number 1
1991 January

In his introduction, Burnett defines masterpiece as "a major or significant work, so that there may be a number of 'masterpieces' within an artist's output." The text that follows includes a selection of the significant work from approxi­mately eighty-five notable Canadian artists whose work is now in the National Gallery. The chronological survey begins with painters from the early nineteenth century such as Joseph Legare and Antoine-Sebastien Plamondon and follows the course of Canadian art up to late twentieth-century artists such as Colette Whiten und Liz Magor.

Of course, by choosing the master­pieces of Canadian art Burnett is also presenting a version of the major Canadian artists, and so it is interesting to note that this includes approximately seventy-four men, nine women, one anonymous painter, and one group. Emily Can's "Cumshewa" (ca. 1912) is the earliest painting by a woman that is included. Given David Burnett's long involvement with Canadian art, how­ever (he was curator of Contemporary Canadian Art, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1980-84), we can accept the chosen artists as an authoritative representa­tion. Indeed, in the text that accompa­nies the illustrations, Burnett makes his reasons for choosing each work clear.

The text appears on the pages opposite the illustrations. The author focuses on the position of the particular artist in the art world of her/his time, and he discusses the accompanying reproductions in some detail. These discussions are intended for the general public and are written with clarity and directness.

There is a name index for ease of access to both text and paintings. The layout is impressive: the printed text and the illustrations are finely balanced, the paper is glossy, and the illustrations are well reproduced. The book is a pleasure to browse through, and it will serve as a useful resource.

Despite its high price, I highly recommend this book. If your library budget restricts your spending on art books, buy this one this year for its intelligent, articulate text and the breadth it will add to your Canadian art collection.

Brenda Reed, Bishop's College School, Lennoxville, Que.
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1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


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