Book review: Wait, do nothing, and lay off the nudes
The Penguin Book of Art Writing Edited by Martin Gayford and Karen Wright Penguin pounds 12.99
Sunday 21 November 1999
There is no chronological order to this medley of utterances and writings; the approach is thematic. Each section mixes contributions from writers, critics and artists from across the centuries. And each contribution explores the world of art and its satellites; hence there are chapters entitled "On the Couch: Art and Psychology" and "Artists and Models, a Difficult Relationship".
This means that there is fun to be had, especially when we find Vasari and Freud rubbing shoulders as they conjecture on the reason behind Mona Lisa's smile. Vasari's line is that da Vinci employed musicians to entertain his sitter, Freud that the artist was thinking of his mother. The artists themselves, as evinced by Turner, are unpretentious, and extremely practical. A bedridden Roger Hilton describes principles for working in gouache as follows: "1. Never rub out ... Make of your mistakes a strength rather than a weakness. 2. Wait for it ... if you don't get a clear message, do nothing ... 3. Don't drink and smoke so much and lay off the nudes."
The lack of theorising from these artists points to the impossible task of writing about art. And the anthology lights up when, as Baudelaire suggested, it is with passion that the contributors attack their subject. Especially when the certifiably insane Antonin Artaud insists that Vincent Van Gogh was sane.
But, more importantly, the editors ask, what is art? A question that can only be halfway answered after reading an anthology such as this, is the implicit conclusion. Perhaps they are right. After all, when Andy Warhol was asked what he thought art was, he replied: "Art? Isn't that a man's name?"
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Game of Thrones actress begs for 'other princess work' after Myrcella Baratheon part is recast
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming August 2014
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy
Star Wars Episode 7: Simon Pegg hints at role
Palestinian artists transform smoke-filled Gaza into symbol of resistance
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
- < Previous
- Next >