How truthful are photos in art books?
I recently read comments of 'experts' stating that they would rather look at photos of paintings in art books; so let's see the quality of these photos in the art books.
Above are 4 examples of photos of the Frida Kahlo painting: "Self-portrait in Velvet Dress" (1926) as it is reproduced in 4 books commonly available.
Which of the four is a faithful reproduction of the original? None.
Here some suggestions on how to evaluate with your own eyes the quality of printed images:
1. top left: overall it is too dark and the clouds contrast is too strong. As a result the face is too hard, without a soft transition of colors. The decoration of the dress should be gold not gold-reddish; the blue color in the waves in the background cannot be seen. The correction in black, done by Frida, on the left side of her hair is not to be seen.
2. top right: the background is not brown but black, overall the photo is too pale, washed out and blurred, the worst of the 4 photos.
3. bottom left: too red and too dark, the waves in the black background are not visible, the face and neck are too red as if Frida had a sun burnt. The valved dress is brown and not purple.
4. bottom right: the best of the four but the dark background has too much blue.
This painting has been printed mirror-reverse, the sun and the dog are not on the left side but on the right side.
Usually the Frida Kahlo books of Dr. S. Grimberg are of very good color quality.
Photo: Frida Kahlo: Self-portrait with a Portrait of Diego on the Breast and Maria between the Eybrows, 1953-1954 ©Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust
Author: Prof. Dr. Mariella Remund