Cover image for Always looking : essays on art
Title:
Always looking : essays on art
Author:
Updike, John.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.
Physical Description:
xiii, 204 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 27 cm
Summary:
In this posthumous collection of John Updike's art writings, a companion volume to the acclaimed "Just Looking "(1989) and "Still Looking" (2005), readers are again treated to "remarkably elegant essays" ("Newsday") in which "the psychological concerns of the novelist drive the eye from work to work until a deep understanding of the art emerges" ("The New York Times Book Review"). " Always Looking "opens with "The Clarity of Things, " the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities for 2008. Here, in looking closely at individual works by Copley, Homer, Eakins, Norman Rockwell, and others, the author teases out what is characteristically "American" in American art. This talk is followed by fourteen essays, most of them written for "The New York Review of Books, " on certain highlights in Western art of the last two hundred years: the iconic portraits of Gilbert Stuart and the sublime landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church, the series paintings of Monet and the monotypes of Degas, the richly patterned canvases of Vuillard and the golden extravagances of Klimt, the cryptic triptychs of Beckmann, the personal graffiti of Miro, the verbal-visual puzzles of Magritte, and the monumental Pop of Oldenburg and Lichtenstein. The book ends with a consideration of recent works by a living American master, the steely sculptural environments of Richard Serra. John Updike was a gallery-goer of genius. "Always Looking" is, like everything else he wrote, an invitation to look, to "see, " to apprehend the visual world through the eyes of a connoisseur.--publisher.
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
Contents:
Pictures and words -- "The clarity of things" -- Making faces -- The love of facts -- The artful Clarks -- Many Monets -- Degas out-of-doors -- An intimate whirlwind -- Gold and Geld -- Bridges to the invisible -- Miró at MoMA -- The art of our disorder -- Magritte the Great -- A case of monumentality -- Big, bright, and Bendayed -- Serra's triumph.
Subject Term:
Added Author:
ISBN:
9780307957306
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

In this posthumous collection of John Updike's art writings, a companion volume to the acclaimed Just Looking (1989) and Still Looking (2005), readers are again treated to "remarkably elegant essays" ( Newsday ) in which "the psychological concerns of the novelist drive the eye from work to work until a deep understanding of the art emerges" ( The New York Times Book Review ).

Always Looking opens with "The Clarity of Things," the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities for 2008. Here, in looking closely at individual works by Copley, Homer, Eakins, Norman Rockwell, and others, the author teases out what is characteristically "American" in American art. This talk is followed by fourteen essays, most of them written for The New York Review of Books , on certain highlights in Western art of the last two hundred years: the iconic portraits of Gilbert Stuart and the sublime landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church, the series paintings of Monet and the monotypes of Degas, the richly patterned canvases of Vuillard and the golden extravagances of Klimt, the cryptic triptychs of Beckmann, the personal graffiti of Miró, the verbal-visual puzzles of Magritte, and the monumental Pop of Oldenburg and Lichtenstein. The book ends with a consideration of recent works by a living American master, the steely sculptural environments of Richard Serra.

John Updike was a gallery-goer of genius. Always Looking is, like everything else he wrote, an invitation to look, to see, to apprehend the visual world through the eyes of a connoisseur.


Author Notes

American novelist, poet, and critic John Updike was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on March 18, 1932. He received an A.B. degree from Harvard University, which he attended on a scholarship, in 1954. After graduation, he accepted a one-year fellowship to study painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England. After returning from England in 1955, he worked for two years on the staff of The New Yorker. This marked the beginning of a long relationship with the magazine, during which he has contributed numerous short stories, poems, and book reviews.

Although Updike's first published book was a collection of verse, The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (1958), his renown as a writer is based on his fiction, beginning with The Poorhouse Fair (1959). During his lifetime, he wrote more than 50 books and primarily focused on middle-class America and their major concerns---marriage, divorce, religion, materialism, and sex. Among his best-known works are the Rabbit tetrology---Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981), and Rabbit at Rest (1988). Rabbit, Run introduces Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom as a 26-year-old salesman of dime-store gadgets trapped in an unhappy marriage in a dismal Pennsylvania town, looking back wistfully on his days as a high school basketball star. Rabbit Redux takes up the story 10 years later, and Rabbit's relationship with representative figures of the 1960s enables Updike to provide social commentary in a story marked by mellow wisdom and compassion in spite of some shocking jolts. In Rabbit Is Rich, Harry is comfortably middle-aged and complacent, and much of the book seems to satirize the country-club set and the swinging sexual/social life of Rabbit and his friends. Finally, in Rabbit at Rest, Harry arrives at the age where he must confront his mortality. Updike won the Pulitzer Prize for both Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest.

Updike's other novels range widely in subject and locale, from The Poorhouse Fair, about a home for the aged that seems to be a microcosm for society as a whole, through The Court (1978), about a revolution in Africa, to The Witches of Eastwick (1984), in which Updike tries to write from inside the sensibilities of three witches in contemporary New England. The Centaur (1963) is a subtle, complicated allegorical novel that won Updike the National Book Award in 1964. In addition to his novels, Updike also has written short stories, poems, critical essays, and reviews. Self-Consciousness (1989) is a memoir of his early life, his thoughts on issues such as the Vietnam War, and his attitude toward religion. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977. He died of lung cancer on January 27, 2009 at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography) John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. Since 1957 he has lived in Massachusetts. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, & the Howells Medal.

(Publisher Provided) John Updike was born in 1932 and attended Harvard College and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England. Form 1955 to 1957 he was a staff member of The New Yorker, which he contributed numerous writings. Updike's art criticism has appeared in publications including Arts and Antiques, The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, and Realites, among many others. He is the author of such best-selling novels as Rabbit Run and Rabbit is Rich. His many works of fiction, poetry and criticism have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. For the past 40 years he has lived in Massachusetts.

(Publisher Provided) John Updike is the author of some 50 books, including collections of short stories, poems, & criticism. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, & the Howells Medal. Born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932, he has lived in Massachusetts since 1957.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

In the third volume of his Looking series of art-essay collections, following Just Looking (1989) and Still Looking (2005), and published posthumously, Updike expands on his articulation of the complex pleasures of intense scrutiny. He is sensuously receptive and discerningly critical as he peers closely and steps back for a more encompassing gaze to assess how each artist brings paint to life. Most of the essays are scintillating and learned biographical and aesthetic responses to major museum exhibits of such artists as Edouard Vuillard, Rene Magritte, Max Beckmann, Joan Miro, and Richard Serra. But in The Clarity of Things, his 2008 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, Updike discusses Picturing America a set of 40 reproductions created by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities for use in schools and libraries, taking fresh approaches to Gilbert Stuart, Winslow Homer, and Norman Rockwell and posing and answering the question, What is American about American art? For all their immediacy, Updike's vital works of art criticism are timeless.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

The previously uncollected art writings of the prolific and award-winning novelist and critic Updike, who died in 2009, are compiled in this handsome volume. The essays explore works by artists including Monet, Klimt, Degas, Miro, Magritte; the major movements of Impressionism, Surrealism, Pop art, and Minimalism; and the habits and tastes of the collectors who shape our understanding of fine art's place in American culture. The reviews, most of which appeared in the New York Review of Books and the New Republic, continue the analytical approach employed in the celebrated collections Just Looking (1989) and Still Looking (2005) by unspooling like narrations of a museum ramble with Updike at your side. Through Updike's lens of novelistic psychology, some of the best-known biographies of 19th and 20th century art history take on a wholly original cast. Our guide is eternally curious; informal but well-informed; adept at describing color, line, or brushstroke without falling back on jargon or metaphor. Whether he's transported by a Monet landscape or thrown off-balance by Richard Serra's torqued elliptical sculptures, Updike is always honest about how he is personally affected by the artwork. As the final document of Updike's sensitive and passionate approach to art, this book reinforces the late writer's great lesson: that we should always be looking. Illus. Agent: The Wylie Agency. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

This posthumous collection of Updike's essays on art serves as a companion volume to Just Looking (1989) and Still Looking (2005). The book opens with a sweeping consideration of "Americanness" in painting that takes readers from the Colonial period to the 1970s. However, tending as Updike did towards the monographic, the majority of essays here consist of sustained readings of canonical male Western artists: Stuart, Degas, Cezanne, and Miro, among others. Updike possessed a gift for narrativizing the viewing experience, and while readers will certainly benefit from the copious contextual and historical information that he provides, the book's strongest passages are his lucid descriptions of single works. The force of these passages is amplified by the numerous high-quality image reproductions that encourage readers to repeatedly compare the prose to the painting being discussed. VERDICT This will greatly appeal to fans of John Updike as well as those seeking thoughtful literary reflections on significant works of modern art.-Jonathan Patkowski, CUNY Graduate Ctr. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

This posthumously published collection of essays by John Updike comprises mainly exhibition reviews. Most appeared in The New York Review of Books or the New Republic. Editor Carduff introduces the intent of the book as a "highly selective survey of the last 200 years of Western Art ... a master class in art appreciation from an unabashedly American perspective." Readers are treated to delightful prose, a memorable opportunity to hypothetically "walk" with a knowledgeable partner through the exhibitions that are reviewed, and an opportunity to smile at Updike's descriptions of artists and artworks, which are sometimes personal, unstilted, and frank. At the same time readers are led to a deeper and sometimes more intimate understanding of both artist and artworks. Occasionally references to artworks are based on images not included in the text but as part of an exhibition, the assumption being that readers have seen the actual exhibition or its catalogue. Images that are discussed are not identified except by title and date; they do not consistently appear on the same page as the text referencing them. These editorial issues weaken what is otherwise a valuable and accessible book about important artists of the last 200 years. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers. J. H. Heinicke emerita, Des Moines Art Center