The late novelist Paul Bowles delivers an odd compliment in the introduction to this sumptuously illustrated survey of the neoclassical painter Claudio Bravo. Bravo (b. 1936), he says, sure knows how to manage his Moroccan servants. Yet Bowles's comment may be more relevant than it first appears, for Bravo's talent for control is evident in every painting reproduced here; no one who opens this book will doubt that he has a dazzling technical mastery of his materials. And if a handful of self-consciously thematic paintings (stiffly posed models and vaguely symbolic objects) and an essay written in impenetrable art talk by critic Calvo Serraller fail to definitely establish Bravo as a Serious Artist," this detracts little from the book's real attraction: the glorious still lifes. Bravo's canvases from the early 1960s through the recent past depict flowers, curtains, vegetables, statuettes and a variety of opulent housewares arranged just so—all with a fineness of detail that flirts with photorealism while retaining a warm, painterly feel. True, after the 20th or so perfect composition in a rich Mediterranean light, some viewers might begin to find Bravo's paintings a bit repetitive. The subject matter and the basic look of his paintings—his hypnotically clear midday interiors—have been much the same throughout his career. But regardless of Bravo's ultimate place in art history, his many fans will find this definitive collection to be a treasure trove and a delight.
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Paul Bowles (1910-1999) is the author of numerous books including The Sheltering Sky. Francisco Calvo Serraller is a well-known art critic and eminent scholar on contemporary Latin American art. Edward J. Sullivan is Professor of Art History and Chair of the Department of Fine Arts at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York. He is the author of more than 25 books and exhibition catalogues, including Claudio Bravo (Rizzoli, 1985) and Latin American Art (Phaidon, 2000).