1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die
General Editor: Stephen Farthing | Publisher Cassell Illustrated | Price £20 | Webwww.cassell-illustrated.com

To see all the amazing pieces of artwork in the world would take a lifetime. Handily, this book by Professor Stephen Farthing comprises 1,001 of those must-see pieces, presenting a fantastic opportunity to have a huge catalogue of world-class art to hand.
At 960 pages in length, it’s a heavy tome. The descriptions that accompany each painting contain enough bite-size information about each work and its artist to be informative without being overwhelming, so this doesn’t feel like a history of art text book. Usefully, the accompanying text also tells you where the original painting is housed, so you can see your favourites in the flesh.

Paintings you’d expect to find – The Mona Lisa, Birth of Venus and The Scream, for example – nestle among some lesser known images. In fact, there are bound to be some that leave you scratching your head and wondering why they were included. But this subjectivity is the very essence of the book, as Professor Farthing explains in his introduction. This is not just a list of personal likes, he insists; it aims to be “a rich and adventurous overview of quality painting.” You need only glance at the book to see that in this aim it has succeeded.

The book runs from the pre-15th century up to 2006, although sadly there are no digital artworks included.Banksy’s Flower Chucker and Elizabeth Peyton’s portrait of Keith Richards sit side by side with classical masters.
But if your primary interest is in fantasy art (and we’re kind of guessing it is) why should you buy this book? Quite simply, because there is such a plethora of fantastical and mythical images stretching across the centuries.

From Jaime Serra’s 14th century Descent into Hell, depicting Jesus, about to step into Hell’s mouth – in this case, a terrifying beast with demons atop its head – through Goya’s 19th Century Saturn consuming his children, right up to Takashi Murakami’s 2006 727-727 melding modern otaku culture with historic Japanese painting.
You’ll be flicking through this book for inspiration over and over again.