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The impulse to make beauty November 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books.

A book on the decorative arts should be beautiful, and “Decorative Arts: Style and Design from Classical to Contemporary” (DK Publishing Inc., $50) is just that.

International antiques expert Judith Miller edited the lavish new volume, which provides an eye-pleasing stroll from the bronzes of the ancient world to the art glass of today. Miller, who has written many books on art, antiques and period design, lives in London with her family but currently is touring the United States to promote her book.

Miller says she wanted to explore, in this book, the human impulse to make objects of beauty as well as how we make things beautiful from era to era. “We’ve been doing this since we were in caves,” she says, “and as we’ve gone on, even modest things have become quite decorative.”

She worked with a team of writer/scholars in the United States and Europe on the book’s chapters, which treat the most distinctive movements in world art history. Since humankind has created millions of decorative objects, and the book is a mere 440 pages, stringent principles were needed to determine what to include.

“We looked at all the materials and [chose] the things that most shout the style of the area. What are the characteristics that tell you that this is Arts & Crafts or this is Art Nouveau?” Miller explains, adding that the book is an exploration, in words and photographs, of technique and how things are made.

As a collector and scholar of antiques, she admits to having many favorites and says she always becomes overly enthusiastic about whatever she is studying. She feels a particular fondness for the vitality of the ceramics of the American Arts & Crafts Movement and wrote that chapter in the new book.

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