Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dover Art Library - fine art drawings from the Masters

Dover Publications
Fine Art Library Publications about Drawings

The Big Drawing Book Review continues during November as I've still got quite a few drawings books to cover - but I am now looking for ways to group them. This post started from four books about drawing which I've bought over the years and whose covers you can see above.

Dover Publications is a major publisher which produces books covering a range of subjects. Part of its range focuses on fine art and the history of fine art drawings and portraits. Their fine art publications are however somewhat different to those usually produced by other publishers.

Dover Art Library includes books of drawings. The drawings are in fact 95% of the content and are full plate (A4 size) and in monochome (sometimes colour); the reproduction is generally good and salient details for each drawing are often provided in full. These slim volumes of drawings generally average between 50 and 100 illustrations and can be accompanied by an introductory essay. However text can sometimes be limited to a very brief publisher's note and whatever text can be fitted onto the back cover. It's not uncommon for the drawings available from Dover Publications to either not be available or only rarely in print or online in any other form.

These are soft back publications with hard wearing glossy covers which are almost always a very economical price. Most are priced at $6.95 which means they are an absolute steal in the USA. In the UK they are priced at £6.95 or more. Given the exchange rate I think this might mean they are either making huge profits for Dover or whichever UK bookshops stocks them! (There's a very good range in the National Gallery main bookshop.) Nevertheless, they are still very good value at this price.
Essentially these books are about reproducing drawings for people who know what they are looking at and who want to get a much better look at how the drawing has been made. What these books do is deliver just that - a close-up view of a drawing which you may never ever see 'for real' in your lifetime. The differences in approach to media used and the similarities and contrasts between signature styles of many different artists are one of the things which make them compelling viewing. You can also see all the initial marks and the partially erased marks and the texture of the marks being made.

It has to be said that some of the reproductions in some of the books look like they were made from photos which were taken quite some time ago and the reproduction is not always top notch. However it should be noted that I'm commenting on the difference between, for example, large reproductions of Van Gogh Drawings in a book costing £6.95 compared to smaller reproductions in a much more expensive catalogue of Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition of his works.

If you wanted to learn how to draw like an artist in the past, these are the sort of books which would be invaluable in terms of providing subject matter for educational use.

If you just want to absorb something about different approaches to drawing across a range of Old and Modern Masters then these books offer an economical way to build a library of drawings as resources.

As a collection, I rate Dover Art Publications about drawings as 5 pencils. They are unique and offer excellent value for money for what they are. Each book probably rates around 4 pencils with some rating 5 pencils where alternative sources of publications are very limited or nonexistent.



  1. Katherine,

    I'm so glad that you highlighted these. They are, as you say, a real steal in the US and incredibly useful if you are looking to learn from past masters. My Sargent and Ingres months this year came from these Dover books. I really learned alot - particularly because there wasn't much commentary and I really had to study the drawings and try to make comparisons and draw conclusions myself. Whether or not I always made the right conclusion, I certainly felt like I was able to look on over their shoulders and get a good sense of their drawing habits.

  2. Yes, they are good. I have the Rembrandt one.

  3. I love my Sargent Portrait drawings one - for me it says a lot more about his art than the oil paintings.

    The two other portrait drawings ones are new and are rather interesting covering as they do artists across the ages.

  4. I love my Sargent Portrait drawings one - for me it says a lot more about his art than the oil paintings.

    The two other portrait drawings ones are new and are rather interesting covering as they do artists across the ages.

  5. I have been struggling to find some online resources with more classic drawings. This post fills in much, thank you for bringing this book line to my attention.


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