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Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form

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The 50th anniversary edition of this classic work on the art of Northwest Coast Indians now offers color illustrations for a new generation of readers along with reflections from contemporary Northwest Coast artists about the impact of this book. The masterworks of Northwest Coast Native artists are admired today as among the great achievements of the world's artists. The p The 50th anniversary edition of this classic work on the art of Northwest Coast Indians now offers color illustrations for a new generation of readers along with reflections from contemporary Northwest Coast artists about the impact of this book. The masterworks of Northwest Coast Native artists are admired today as among the great achievements of the world's artists. The painted and carved wooden screens, chests and boxes, rattles, crest hats, and other artworks display the complex and sophisticated northern Northwest Coast style of art that is the visual language used to illustrate inherited crests and tell family stories. In the 1950s Bill Holm, a graduate student of Dr. Erna Gunther, former Director of the Burke Museum, began a systematic study of northern Northwest Coast art. In 1965, after studying hundreds of bentwood boxes and chests, he published "Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form." This book is a foundational reference on northern Northwest Coast Native art. Through his careful studies, Bill Holm described this visual language using new terminology that has become part of the established vocabulary that allows us to talk about works like these and understand changes in style both through time and between individual artists' styles. Holm examines how these pieces, although varied in origin, material, size, and purpose, are related to a surprising degree in the organization and form of their two-dimensional surface decoration. The author presents an incisive analysis of the use of color, line, and texture; the organization of space; and such typical forms as ovoids, eyelids, U forms, and hands and feet. The evidence upon which he bases his conclusions constitutes a repository of valuable information for all succeeding researchers in the field


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The 50th anniversary edition of this classic work on the art of Northwest Coast Indians now offers color illustrations for a new generation of readers along with reflections from contemporary Northwest Coast artists about the impact of this book. The masterworks of Northwest Coast Native artists are admired today as among the great achievements of the world's artists. The p The 50th anniversary edition of this classic work on the art of Northwest Coast Indians now offers color illustrations for a new generation of readers along with reflections from contemporary Northwest Coast artists about the impact of this book. The masterworks of Northwest Coast Native artists are admired today as among the great achievements of the world's artists. The painted and carved wooden screens, chests and boxes, rattles, crest hats, and other artworks display the complex and sophisticated northern Northwest Coast style of art that is the visual language used to illustrate inherited crests and tell family stories. In the 1950s Bill Holm, a graduate student of Dr. Erna Gunther, former Director of the Burke Museum, began a systematic study of northern Northwest Coast art. In 1965, after studying hundreds of bentwood boxes and chests, he published "Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form." This book is a foundational reference on northern Northwest Coast Native art. Through his careful studies, Bill Holm described this visual language using new terminology that has become part of the established vocabulary that allows us to talk about works like these and understand changes in style both through time and between individual artists' styles. Holm examines how these pieces, although varied in origin, material, size, and purpose, are related to a surprising degree in the organization and form of their two-dimensional surface decoration. The author presents an incisive analysis of the use of color, line, and texture; the organization of space; and such typical forms as ovoids, eyelids, U forms, and hands and feet. The evidence upon which he bases his conclusions constitutes a repository of valuable information for all succeeding researchers in the field

30 review for Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form

  1. 5 out of 5

    Wayne

    Very good technical introduction to art from the Northwest Coast of North America. This covers art by the Tlingit, Haida, Bella Coola, Bella Bella, Kwakiutl, and Tsimshian tribes. The various components are discussed, along with the principles that govern the art. The way the components fit together is also covered. These principles were reverse-engineered, as there weren't many -- any at all? -- traditional artists still alive when this was written in the 1960's. My major complaint with this boo Very good technical introduction to art from the Northwest Coast of North America. This covers art by the Tlingit, Haida, Bella Coola, Bella Bella, Kwakiutl, and Tsimshian tribes. The various components are discussed, along with the principles that govern the art. The way the components fit together is also covered. These principles were reverse-engineered, as there weren't many -- any at all? -- traditional artists still alive when this was written in the 1960's. My major complaint with this book is with the examples. There were lots of examples -- all black&white photos or hand drawings. Since color is a vital part of this art, I wish the examples were actually in color. Also, the examples are provided to illustrate the discussion in the text, but there often isn't a clear indication of what part of the picture is being used. I wish the examples had circles and arrows and a paragraph making it very clear what portion was under consideration. Also also, I wish the examples had been kept together with their associated text, all on the same page. They were usually pretty close, but page flipping was usually required. This would have greatly increased the page count, so I understand why it wasn't done -- but it would have made for a better book. All that aside, this is an excellent, essential book for understanding this art. It was the first I read on the subject, so I don't know if it was the best place to start.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron Peters

    If you only have one book on Northwest Coast aboriginal art, this really is THE book you need. It is a classic on the history, symbolism, uses, and especially the principles of form and organization in Northwest Coast art. It also has a useful bibliography. I don't have the 50th Anniversary Edition, I have an older hardcover edition, but Holm's material doesn't change between the two. If you only have one book on Northwest Coast aboriginal art, this really is THE book you need. It is a classic on the history, symbolism, uses, and especially the principles of form and organization in Northwest Coast art. It also has a useful bibliography. I don't have the 50th Anniversary Edition, I have an older hardcover edition, but Holm's material doesn't change between the two.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jen Grogan

    My copy is the original book, bought in a used bookstore (and a beautiful copy it is!), not the 50th anniversary, but this was the one that turned up when I searched, so this is what I used. Not exactly a fun read, dry and technical, but a nice, brief refresher course on Native Northwest Coast art, which was what I wanted.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    This book is the rosetta stone for understanding Native NW formline design--and 50 years ago when it was first published was groundbreaking work. It provided a language to discuss form and is a must for any serious student of their art.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Moors

    An excellent resource for the arts educator who wishes to portray the work of the North West Indigenous Peoples in an authentic light. Fantastic illustrations and descriptors!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    To be clear up front, this is a narrowly-focused book. Although it had the side effect of jumpstarting a renaissance of the art style, this isn't a how-to manual. It's also not a cultural primer, though it contains plenty of cultural material -- this isn't going to teach you the significance of a raven or a beaver within the style. Rather, it's a truly epic attempt to determine, through careful examination of hundreds upon hundreds of pieces, how line, shape, and color worked together in Native To be clear up front, this is a narrowly-focused book. Although it had the side effect of jumpstarting a renaissance of the art style, this isn't a how-to manual. It's also not a cultural primer, though it contains plenty of cultural material -- this isn't going to teach you the significance of a raven or a beaver within the style. Rather, it's a truly epic attempt to determine, through careful examination of hundreds upon hundreds of pieces, how line, shape, and color worked together in Native American art of the Northwest coast. At the time that Holm wrote this book, the style was essentially dead; he reported being unable to find a single informant who had been trained in the style -- one of the reasons he had to work backwards from specific pieces to general principles. Now, however, there's a thriving art community of artists and artisans among the Tlingit, Haida, and other tribes that work within or derive from the classic style. Certainly Holm doesn't deserve all, or even most of the credit for that (nor would he claim it), but this book is ground zero for the revitalization of the style.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    This is one of the most practical and at the same time esoteric studies of Northwest Coast Art. In it, the author Bill Holm, give you line by line, color by color analysis of what makes this art. Superb research for a fundemental building block to any Northwest Coast Art book collection.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    This book helped me learn the names for different templates for common themes in northwest coastal native art. I am particularly interested in a group of people from the Queen Anne Islands, the Haida people. There are ample examples and photos of Haida artifacts and information.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kasi

    This was the first book I read when learning formline style - and turned out to be the most useful for both reference and inspiration.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Carlton

  11. 4 out of 5

    Samantha McGuire (Mirror Bridge Books)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lila Morris

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Stevens

  16. 4 out of 5

    Todd

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  18. 5 out of 5

    Greg Jose

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pan

  20. 4 out of 5

    Luke Trier

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tirzah

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  23. 4 out of 5

    Akchev

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim Parrillo

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Lynam

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rhoda

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cymberleah Dawne

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