Books by Gary Schwartz

Released: Oct. 1, 1997

Schwartz (Rembrandt, 1992) begins this lucid introduction in the First Impressions series to ``everybody's favorite weird artist'' by asking readers to stop reading and to spend time with the plentiful black-and-white and full-color reproductions of Bosch's work, and to think about what they see, in order to gain a context for his words. It's good advice, because the astonishing visuals—of birds, beasts, flora, and folk—will take up full residence in readers' minds while they cover Bosch's story. He was born around 1450 in the Netherlands, and grew up in a wealthy family of painters. Schwartz sees Bosch's work as deeply Catholic in origin, with ties to the proverbs and wordplay of his native county of Brabant, e.g., the profusion of metamorphosing berries in The Garden of Delights as a pun on ``Be fruitful and multiply.'' Schwartz doesn't shirk the obvious sexual imagery, nor does he overemphasize it, but places it in the context of Bosch's religious and historical milieu even as he admits that no one actually knows, with certainty, what it means. While the author is a bit wonky on Catholic practice (Catholics do not ``worship'' saints; altars cannot contain ``a real piece of the body of Christ,'' of course), he discusses Bosch's endlessly fascinating paintings with clarity and energy. Teenagers will pore over this one. (index) (Biography. 13+) Read full book review >
BETS AND SCAMS by Gary Schwartz
Released: April 1, 1996

A first novel from the Brooklyn-born Schwartz, based in the Netherlands since 1965, that may lead some to think that art historians should stick to art and leave the suspense to more accomplished storytellers. Schwartz (Rembrandt, 1992) is nevertheless an expert both on the Netherlands and the Dutch art scene, with at least a passing familiarity with the New York gallery world, and his hero here is Lodewijk Alstad, a 29-year-old art-historian-cum-dealer hustling his way either to runaway success or utter failure. Lodewijk's fate depends on a series of sales of old- master works, and to bring about that end he has betrayed his mentor, deceived an art journal, and gotten himself embroiled in the dicey affairs of Mitchell Fleishig, a Beverly Hills real-estate magnate whose fortunes are plunging and whose future is mortgaged to the Mob. On top of all this, Lodewijk is having girlfriend troubles and suffering from periodic bouts of anxiety seemingly linked to his family's long-ago persecutions at the hands of the Nazis. Juggling deals from Houston to California, and persuading his crotchety aunt to part with a valuable painting by Emanuel de Witte, Lodewijk first bumbles and then speeds toward a fated confrontation with Fleishig's Mafia bosses, eventually stealing back the de Witte that Fleishig has desperately stolen from him, though not before evading a couple of attempts on his life. Throughout, Schwartz clogs the already clogged narrative with a dry- toned analysis of the glorious history of Dutch painting, snoozy travelogues of Amsterdam, and with a full chapter that attacks the mandarin lifestyles of scholars. Those specially interested in the Dutch masters may find a degree of allure here; readers in search of sharper plotting and more daring characters, though, may as well steer clear. If the art world were as unequivocally callow as Schwartz implies, it would have self- destructed ages ago. Read full book review >
REMBRANDT by Gary Schwartz
Released: April 1, 1992

By a Rembrandt authority and longtime Netherlands resident, the best yet in the ``First Impressions'' series. Schwartz not only relays the most significant events in the master's life, depicts the genius and milieu that engendered his fame, and outlines enough political and social history to give him context- -but also conveys the man's rich complexity, includes sage observations about the difficulty of winnowing facts from legends adhering to the great, offers a succinct overview of schools of art history (describing his own philosophy as a sensible amalgam), and ends with a history of the artist's reputation (fueled, ironically, both by the many misattributions and by their unmaskings). Schwartz includes telling contemporary quotes (the poet Huygens observed that Rembrandt ``combines individual and universal features better than any [classical] Greek painter''); his own uncondescending voice is admirably lucid and intelligent, with a humorous edge. He's also right about Rembrandt's darker side (among other things, he was ``not more scrupulous in financial affairs than he had to be''). Oddly, mention of Amsterdam's Jews is omitted; otherwise, a nearly flawless text, with more emphasis on the art's emotional content than on the artist's techniques. The 54 beautifully reproduced illustrations are well chosen, placed, and captioned; the elegant book design, with borders subtly echoing Rembrandt's signature glow, is outstanding. A must. Art fully cited; index. (Nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >