Blowhard, Esq. writes:
What I appreciated most about this book, aside from the subject matter, was its modest approach. Clark, best known as the writer and host of the TV series “Civilization”, is a highly cultured man but he wears his erudition lightly. The hardcover edition I have is less than 200 pages total and consists mainly of 175 different plates of sculpture, painting, and photographs arranged chronologically from ancient Egypt to post-war Hollywood. The explanatory text accompanying each image is minimal and purely informational, perhaps two to three sentences that tell who the artist was, the circumstances around the creation of the work, and some biographical detail about the model. There is a narrative 25-page introduction — although given the generous margins and numerous illustrations, it’s probably closer to 12-15 full pages — to provide a general framework.
In contrast to the didactic wall text of so many museums, Clark’s book invites the reader to make his own interpretations and connections. It’s as if he’s given us a sketch and is asking us to provide the color and shading. Sure, he has a definite POV and the mere fact that he’s choosing this or that work over another is arguably meant to influence the reader, but his style is nevertheless subtle, unrushed, and unassuming. The entire book can be consumed in a leisurely afternoon but he wants the questions it raises to linger for a lifetime.
“Feminine Beauty” is out of print but you can get a cheap used copy on Amazon and elsewhere.