Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art

Knopf. 2015. 278p. illus. ISBN 9781101874783. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781101874790. FINE ARTS
OrangeReviewStarThis impressive title examines 19th-century French art as a manly morality tale beginning with romanticism in 1825 and extending up to cubism in 1925. Four final chapters address English and American art since World War II. Barnes is a well-known, multi-award-winning English author of fiction (A History of the World in 10½ Chapters; Flaubert's Parrot) and nonfiction (The Pedant in the Kitchen; Nothing To Be Frightened Of). This volume assembles key book and exhibition reviews Barnes published in leading journals such as Modern Painters and the New York Review of Books since the 1980s. The author digs into fascinating details of isometric proportions based on many scholarly biographical and autobiographical works. Some illustrations are absent, but they can be pieced together by readers. Both artists and their clients have been aware of the destructive effect of industrialization for hundreds of years, and this book explores its impact on the socioeconomic base in the lives of artists and the forms of paintings.
VERDICT Comparable to New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl's Let's See, Barnes's latest is highly recommended to all art readers. [See Prepub Alert, 4/13/15.]
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