Maree Coote’s first book The Melbourne Book: A History of Now (2003) is a celebration of Melbourne’s history, and its icons with some wonderful photography by the author herself.
Her latest book, The Art of Being Melbourne is a celebration of Melbourne through the eyes of its artists. You can see the city evolving from a village planned along the Yarra with a strict grid structure (thanks to Hoddle) to a bustling metropolis. The minutiae of Melbourne life is also depicted- its trams, streetscapes, bridges and buildings. While there is the occasional figure depicted, the focus of the book is undoubtedly Melbourne.
There are so many notable inclusions in this book, including Frederick McCubbin, Albert Tucker, John Brack, Kenneth Jack and Jeffrey Smart. The art is arranged in a chronological order, which also allows the reader/viewer to see the evolution of artistic styles and influences.
I would have to admit the streetscapes were what interested me the most. I discovered new artists (to me) such as Dora Wilson, Louis Kahn and Mike Barr, whose portraits of Melbourne in the rain are very familiar!
When I saw it at my library, I pounced on it, looking forward to taking it home to savour. It is more than an art book and more than a history of Melbourne. It offers multiple perspectives on a city at a particular point in time by a myriad of talented people. If you love art and Melbourne, this is the book for you.