Furniture making takes an artistic turn in this unusual do-it-yourself guidebook geared to amateur woodworkers. Master paintings have long inspired interior decorators, but, with the exception of a few notable pieces such as Salvador Dali's Mae West Lips Sofa now produced commercially, the possibilities for creating furniture pieces as they appear in paintings remain largely untapped.
Intrigued by the wealth of design ideas, from medieval peasant furniture to the evocative images of 20th-century surrealists, the authors first selected 20 pieces of furniture from famous paintings. Then they gathered a group of sculptors and furniture designers who drew up plans and constructed three-dimensional versions of the chosen pieces.
Van Gogh's rough-hewn chair from ''Chair and Pipe,'' a Cubist sideboard from Picasso's ''Still Life Sideboard,'' and the proverbial stool from Bruegel's ''Sitting Between Two Stools'' are among the projects described and illustrated in ''Master Pieces.''
While all the finished copies are functional, some are also bizarre. A table from the ''Difficult Crossing,'' by surrealist Rene Magritte, jars the eye with a human-shaped support used as one of the legs. An equally provocative piece is a table with a carved wooden tablecloth inspired by Paul Cezanne's ''The Card Players.'' The reproduction of a table from an early limner painting by the itinerant New England artist Joseph P. Davis also creates an odd effect. Representing an interesting problem in geometry, the ''Limner Table'' is based on a parallelogram construction to re-create the flattened perspective of the original work.
Some more conventional yet distinctive copies include a medieval trestle table and ''misers chest,'' a graceful French daybed from ''Madame Recamier,'' by Jacques Louis David, and a whimsical settee from one of Walter Crane's children's book illustrations in ''The Fairy Ship.''
Each furniture copy in ''Master Pieces'' is accompanied by information about the artist and detailed working drawings. Using these examples as a starting point, the authors hope to inspire craftspeople to adapt and construct furniture from their own favorite paintings.