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My bad for not listening to some of the other critical reviews - I bought both the 'Great Paintings Explained' and 'How to Read Paintings' and first off: all the pics are in black & white!! which is nuts - how can you appreciate an artists great use of red/gold/highlights/shadow when everything is in grey scale? Not that you call see much detail, anyway - the books are 6x9" and the page margins mean every pic is about 4x5.
Regarding the written content, I think Great Paintings Explained is a better book because it explains more of the historical aspect of the painting: explains the myth, story, legend that's being depicted and often info about models used by the artist - I'd keep this book if the pics had been in color but it's just too annoying to read about "...her blue eyes wide and....flushed red cheeks" and see'em in grey.
How to Read A Painting is way too much, I think, of the author telling us what we should feel about the painting, the author is sharing with us what he thinks the artist might mean, how the author interprets symbols or passion in the pics...I'd rather hear the artists' actual words or at least the consensus from art historians.
So all in all...disappointing, better to have charged more & presented better quality illustrations.
Enjoyed reading this thoughtful book about some of Christopher P Jones favorite paintings. Have seen many of these myself and appreciate his impressions. His explanations are clear and inciteful. He teaches us to spend some time with a work. Good advice!
I initially took a gamble on reading this book as my first real introduction to understanding fine art in hopes that its claim of a less linear embrace of art history would be more effective in igniting some passion for this great lack of knowledge I have on the subject. I was afraid that if we started the clock too far back, I would lose interest early on and then not really have the chance to engage with works that might appeal directly to me.
I also wanted to read an introduction like this because I was researching a character for an upcoming novel, who I imagined might compare his love to the art he studied in his life. I suppose I hoped I would take the bare essentials away, and feel adequately confident in exploring that character's mind.
Now, all timelines have been thrown off, because of what an excellent job Mr. Jones does in this short but lively collection of thoughts. Now, instead, it is myself who seeks more and more from art, who is set about this wild path of exploration and romance. The novel I feel must shift entirely - I feel the character would best follow my own trajectory now, and feel a whole world open up to them like it has for me, rather than have intimate knowledge to draw upon. I feel there's something much more urgent and real in that pursuit, and its connection to the pursuit of romance, than there is in simply 'knowing art and seeing it in things'.
That's the kind of shift this book has allowed me. I've been converted from a person who wants to know things concretely about their world, to a person who wants to continually experience the sheer overwhelming immensity of a world that always has another perspective to offer. And Mr. Jones is to blame with his accessible, honest and humbling introduction to a world that he himself is evidently still losing himself in all these years later.
I love this book. It is insightful, informative and very easy to read! Each painting is discussed in an informal way, with a short biography about the artist. There is a great mix of well known and lesser known paintings. The author has also given an insight at the back of the book about his own experience of analysing art and how you can further develop your understanding further.
Christopher Jones presents a way of looking at and appreciating art. That’s fine but what makes this book so rewarding is that he goes beyond this by using his method to appreciate actual art. I found many examples of art which I already knew and others which were new to me. In both cases I learned a lot.
This little book is very user friendly and gives the reader a good understanding of the paintings discussed. The author's own personal experiences when discovering art many years ago only add to the book's charm. I am looking forward to when I next visit an art gallery and am able to put the author's tips into practice.