Keith Rocco's paintings fit into the historical painting genre that was popular during the Nineteenth Century, when paintings of the great Napoleonic battles were produced by a series of famous master painters. A high proportion of the paintings illustrated here are studies of individual soldiers. Nineteenth Century history painters did similar studies, but they tended to be more staged than Rocco's works, which show the soldiers in a variety of actions as well as the more formal posed standing views. There are larger group pictures, ranging from small scale skirmishes to full sized battle scenes, most impressively 'The Sons of Mars', showing the French hussars charging at Austerlitz.
The book is arranged so that each painting gets two facing pages, one for the explanatory text and one for a full page print of the painting. Most of the text pages also get a smaller picture, with a few showing Rocco's original sources. Three of the paintings get two-page spreads, and in each case there is a smaller copy of the same picture on a single page, so any detail lost in the fold can be seen.
The prints are all of a very high quality, so one gets a feel for Rocco's style of painting. The explanatory text is informative. All of them have an explanation of the historical background to the scene and most add some details of Rocco's motivation or process. This is a nice collection of paintings by a very fine artist.
Author: Peter Harrington
Publisher: Crimson Books (US), Osprey elsewhere