Art: Cream of the Crop

The year's best buy in art books went on sale last week. It is Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art (distributed by Random House; $6.50), an outsized (11-by-15-in., 5-lb.) volume containing 85 excellent color reproductions, ranging from a 13th-Century Byzantine Madonna and Child to Paul Cézanne's 19th-Century Still Life. Paired off with each picture are such superior selections from world literature as Nathaniel Hawthorne on Fra Angelico, Walter Pater on Botticelli, William Blake on William Blake.

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