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Archive for Friday, November 14, 1997

HIDDEN TREASURES REVEALED (ABRAMS, $50)

November 14, 1997

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This wondrous book reveals 74 important Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings that -- extraordinarily -- almost no one has seen before.

These virtually unknown masterpieces, almost all of which were held by private collectors in prewar Germany, were believed to have been lost during World War II. It was recently revealed that these paintings were hidden away and secretly relocated to the Soviet Union after the war.

This beautiful volume accompanies a special exhibition of these works held in 1995 at St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum.

The introduction to "Hidden Treasures Revealed" notes that these works are all but unknown not only by the general public but also "by the most conscientious scholars," and describes the intensive efforts to assure the authenticity of the paintings.

What is most incredible about the 74 paintings is their sheer artistic quality and historical interest. They were created by the best-known Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists: Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, van Gogh, Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and others.

The clear centerpiece of the collection is Degas' "Place de la Concorde" (also known as "Viscount Lepic and His Daughters"). Also notable are several van Gogh and Cezanne paintings.

Each painting is shown as a magnificent color plate, often with another full-page color detail. An illuminating commentary, supporting drawings and photographs accompany each painting.

The Lawrence Public Library has for years placed an emphasis on collecting books relating to art history. Readers eager to conduct research in this area will find much of interest in the library's collection, starting perhaps with the very fine "Art History" (1995) by local resident and respected art historian and Kansas University professor Marilyn Stokstad. Steven Adams' "The Impressionists" (1990) provides a good overview of this popular art movement.

The contribution to the understanding of art history and European culture afforded by the exhibition and book can scarcely be exaggerated. Even while reveling in the beauty of the art, I could not forget the underlying political and ethical issues relating to "trophy art" and the fragility of great art in the face of war and other historical upheavals.

All those with an interest in the art of this era will find "Hidden Treasures Revealed" an essential work.

-- Bruce Flanders is the director of the Lawrence Public Library.

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