Normal view MARC view ISBD view

How to look at a painting / Francoise Barbe-Gall ; [translated from the French by Stewart Spencer].

By: Barbe-Gall, Françoise.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London : Frances Lincoln Limited, c2010Description: 311 pages : color ill ; 22 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780711232129; 0711232121.Uniform titles: Comment regarder un tableau. English Subject(s): Painting -- Appreciation | Art appreciationDDC classification: 750.118 Summary: Presents advice on ways to examine a painting to gain a better understanding of its meaning.
Tags from this library: No tags from this library for this title. Log in to add tags.
    average rating: 0.0 (0 votes)
Item type Current location Collection Call number Copy number Status Date due
Non-Fiction Davis (Central) Library
Non-Fiction 750.118 BAR 1 Available

Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Which of us, in the presence of a painting, has not felt that we lack the keys to decipher it? We feel an emotional response, but the work still seems to evade our understanding.
Francoise Barbe-Gall combines a nuanced understanding of the way viewers respond to paintings with a rich knowledge of their context and circumstances of their creation. The result is like a tour of an extraordinary museum in the company of a gentle yet authoritative guide. A fascinating range of works are grouped in six thought-provoking chapters that examine our different responses to the ways in which paintings define reality.ÿ
The author takes as her point of departure the impressions that we all feel when confronted by a canvas and takes us on a voyage of discovery fired by her own passionate enthusiasm for the subject. What is the painting's relationship with the real world? Has the artist idealized nature, or distorted it? Did they want to shock the viewer, or provide consolation? With a clear approach and straightforward yet subtle analysis, the meaning of each work slowly becomes clear.

From Raphael's penetrating character study of Castiglione, through Hopper's cinematic take on the wee small hours of the morning, Barbe-Gall begins by covering a number of ostensibly realistic works, made from the stuff of everyday life. Going in quite the other direction, she then looks at the way paintings can express moments of heightened reality, from the perfection of Boticelli's Primavera to the arresting glance of Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring. She discusses paintings that distort the visible world (Parmigianino's Madonna with an improbably long neck, Dali's melting clocks) and those that sow confusion to make us pay closer attention to the real world (Cezanne's depiction of a forest glade, a mysterious fifteenth century altarpiece). Questions of history, style, iconography and composition are dealt in context of the paintings she discusses.

Lavishly illustrated and featuring thirty-six fascinating works from Raphael to Rothko, Breughel to Bacon, this is also a magnificent art book.

Originally published in French in 2006.

Includes bibliographic references (p. 306-307) and index.

Presents advice on ways to examine a painting to gain a better understanding of its meaning.

8 11 89 91 111 115

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

In a painting in which everything has become rounded and mangled, the rectangle of the mirror stands out. By resisting the general sense of wear and degradation, its very shape implies the adoption of a particular stance, which it clearly signals by reproducing a reflection that bears no relation to external reality. Having been spirited away, Dyer's face is reflected here in what seems to be a magnifying glass. But this man who expands in all directions has no chance of seeing himself from the side, even from the corner of his eye. And in any case he no longer has an eye. The intense blue of the background confirms the disharmony between what we can see of the model and what he can see of himself. The mirror does not lie. It is more like another painting than a mirror, producing an alternative image, not a reflection. The dream of a portrait. Or the battered portrait of a dream. It is almost like one of those profiles that one sees on medallions painted against a pure blue sky: the serene and emblematic image of humanity as conceived at the time of the Renaissance. The resemblance isn't close: something disastrous seems to have happened in the meantime. Not much, really, but a disaster none the less. A halo of light forms a circle on the ground. The regularity of the shape exposes it all as something staged, the careful calibration of a projector. Beyond the area that it circumscribes the space remains ill defined, its limits vague. It has something of an arena about it, or a circus ring, a place appropriate to a story that keeps on going round and round until all its participants are exhausted. The darkness isolates it from the rest of the world. In his dizziness, can this man really ignore the fact that it is the earth itself that is turning beneath his feet? It is a fairly derisory world from this point of view. Here is a man reduced to shreds on this planet of ours. And the sky retains its icy composure. Excerpted from How to Look at a Painting by Francoise Barbe-Gall All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics


From the author of How to Talk to Children about Art (2005) comes this inexpensive, inline-flapped paperback, which is sewn and printed on heavy paper. Barbe-Gall (Ecole du Louvre) is a veteran at guiding people through the visual experience. Here she posits six different ways of reacting to art. One chapter, for instance, prepares readers to "contemplate the sublime," while another helps readers "get over the shock of our first impression." She presents six paintings to exemplify each approach. Like an encouraging docent, Barbe-Gall takes readers on a visual excursion, helping decode imagery, mood, and space. Her 36 selections cut across all styles and eras, ranging from the familiar (Munch's The Scream) to the lesser known (Tapies' Seven Chairs). Helpfully, each painting is accompanied by three to four full-color illustrations, from thumbnail view to two-page spread. Barbe-Gall also separately explores three to four themes per painting. She has a pleasing, meditative writing style. Somewhat disappointingly, this book lacks an index, though it does provide a quick reference list of themes, photo credits, and further reading suggestions. Compare with the costlier Learning to Look at Paintings, by Mary Acton (2nd ed., CH, Jun '09, 46-5438). Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. L. C. Duhon The University of Toledo