|Publication Date: September 15, 2016|
Written by a Met Scholar, Includes 500 Paintings with 1,100 Illustrations; Book Is the Most Extensive on the Subject to Date
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings is a monumental new publication, published by Skira Rizzoli, that highlights 500 iconic works from across the Museum's world-renowned collection of more than 5,000 years of visual expression. Over 1,100 lavish color illustrations present the paintings chronologically, from the ancient Near East to the present day, accompanied by engaging and informative texts written by long-time Met curator and educator Kathryn Calley Galitz. The volume's broad sweep of material makes it at once a universal history of painting and an ideal introduction to masterworks at The Met.
"This new publishing project celebrates the breadth and depth of The Met's unparalleled collection of paintings across all cultures," said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Met. "It's the most extensive survey of the Museum's paintings ever published, with a fresh, interconnected approach that reflects today's global perspective."
Ms. Galitz added: "It was such a privilege to give voice to the Museum's collecton of masterpiece paintings. As I was writing, I was especially drawn to the many connections that emerged among works from different times and cultures. I hope this book will inspire readers to make their own connections and to approach painting in a new, more inclusive way."
The 500 works presented in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings encompass a wide range of surfaces where color has been applied—from clay vessels unearthed at ancient burial sites to Egyptian mummy boards, plaster walls that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, and vellum pages from medieval manuscripts. Also included are paintings on silk scrolls, palm leaves, and tree bark, as well as traditional materials such as canvas and wood. The landmark paintings chosen for the volume are distinguished by their innovative qualities or their influence, while some best embody a particular artist or culture. The creators of the works span the widest possible range, from anonymous makers to the most celebrated artists of their day. European and American artists include Duccio, El Greco, Raphael, Titian, Botticelli, Bronzino, Caravaggio, Turner, Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, Rembrandt, Bruegel, Vermeer, David, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Degas, Sargent, Homer, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, Johns, and Warhol, through to contemporary artist Kerry James Marshall.
Ms. Galitz's introduction and her writings about the individual works of art address the artistic and historical contexts in which the paintings were created, their influences on other works of art, and the significance of the artists—all of which speak to what makes these works "masterpieces."
In many ways, the publication is a tribute to the collecting acumen of The Met staff and the generosity of its donors, who, over the nearly 150 years since The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded, have built the collection into one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world. The credit line for each painting tells an essential part of its story: how it came to enter the Museum's holdings. In most instances, the works were gifts, attesting to the extraordinary legacy of patronage that has sustained The Met throughout its history. Names such as Morgan, Rogers, Altman, Bache, Havemeyer, Clark, Lehman, Dillon, Wrightsman, and Annenberg resonate as both remarkable collectors and symbols of historic generosity.
The Museum's collection of masterpiece paintings continues to grow: 65 of the works included in this volume were acquired in the year 2000 or later, and four of them just within the past year. Among the most recent additions are important works from the Mary Griggs Burke collection of Japanese art and Leonard A. Lauder's transformative gift of 78 seminal Cubist paintings.