Christopher Menz

For an Australian collector to have amassed one substantial and internationally recognised collection of Victorian art during the late twentieth century is unusual. Having parted with the first and replaced it with a second, amassed in the twenty-first, is extraordinary. But then John Schaeffer ...

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Who says printed books are dead and that the e-book is the future? Ars Sacra, weighing in at eleven kilos, with eight hundred pages and two thousand colour images, sets a new standard for the coffee-table book. While an iPad version would be lighter and not require a reinforced table, justice can only be done to this large-format book in printed form. Spanning late antiquity to the present, Ars Sacra presents the Christian artistic tradition through its greatest monuments and works of art. While many of the illustrations are familiar – Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque are well covered – the photographs are superb. Some buildings have multiple images and those from Poland and Russia, for instance, show the important regional architectural styles that developed away from the sphere of Rome.

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If Australian art has sometimes been perceived as wanting in style and opulence, recent art museum exhibitions and monographs examining the art and artists of the Edwardian era tell another story and reveal that there is abundant glamour in Australian art. The Edwardians (2004) and George W. Lambert Retrospective (2007) – both from the National Gallery of Australia – and Bertram Mackennal (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2007) have succeeded in presenting Australian art in the grand manner from this most extravagant period.

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