Book Review: Chess In Art

I received a copy of “Chess in Art” to review recently. This is a “coffee table book” published in Europe but available around the world.

For a chess lover, this book offers 287 pages of content plus a significant number of pages with brief descriptions of the artists lives that follow as well as an index to where each of the artist’s works can be found in the book.

The book is divided into the following eras, and most pieces (but not all) are European in origin:

  • 1100-1500
  • 1500-1600
  • 1600-1700
  • 1700-1800
  • 1800- 1900

As it says in its tagline, “the only book of its kind”, Chess in Art brings together an extensive collection of images of artworks that depict individuals playing this game of strategy. For some chess and art lovers, this may be an amusing publication. Evaluating the state of the games, or where a game is featured in a painting (sometimes the chessboard is quite hidden) may make for an enjoyable activity.

The introduction features some interesting nuggets of information, such as “The lack of chess paintings in the beginning of the sixteenth century is attributed to the difficulty of establishing chess rules.” (p9) Yet, the scholarly aspect of the prologue is undermined by the lack of references to bolster statements such as the one above. The prologue also fails to illustrate details or note page numbers for the pieces it mentions, making it harder to fully appreciate the works.

There are significant complexities in publishing, especially internationally, when dealing with rights relating to works of art and copyrights. This publication features hundreds of pieces of artwork, and yet no information on the origins of the paintings are given. This choice means that we readers are left to wonder as to the names of the pieces, the year(s) of creation, the materials used, size, and where one could see the original.

This book is a unique contribution to the world of chess. It’s a good jumping off point for chess enthusiasts or future art history scholars who may want to analyze chess in art. However, it is tantalizingly short on the information needed to truly delve into the artwork.

Chess in Art 110 Euros, available on www.chessinart.com // Editor: Pavel Herel // Layout & typesetting: Jan Samec, David Rubek, // Book Cover: Peter Herel Raabenstein, Jan Samec // Expert consultation: Pavel Matocha // Proofreading: Rosana Murcott // Adviser: Sebastian Tijsma // // Editorial assistance: Tomas Pik // Gill PRogtrop// Copyright HereLove 2020

ISBN 9788090577677

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