Paper Museum: Writings about Painting, Mostly

Andrew Graham-Dixon, Author Alfred A. Knopf $35 (400p) ISBN 978-0-679-45520-2
The broad view of the arts--that they are meant to enlarge our world--is everywhere apparent in this collection of essays by the author of such books as A History of British Art and the art critic for The Independent where these pieces were initially published. Through reviews of significant exhibitions of Western art, the pleasures of good painting emerge, informed by a journalistic critic who gets close to the work he is considering. ""None of the people here seems to be communicating with one another,"" Graham-Dixon writes of the half-lit creatures in Toulouse-Lautrec's painting, Au Moulin Rouge. Even when he comes across an artist he cannot wholeheartedly embrace, such as the pointillist Seurat, he uses his wit and erudition to produce a fresh insight--in this case, wondering if Seurat is the father of Pop art. One view of journalistic criticism holds that its primary function is not to tell the reader whether a work of art is bad or good but, instead, to give the reader enough information so that he can make up his own mind. To his credit, Graham-Dixon does both, enhancing his supple, reportorial style with an exuberant tone. The British critic William Hazlitt, whom Graham-Dixon admires, defined the common-place critic as a ""pedant of polite conversation,"" a person who ""thinks by proxy and talks by rote."" Graham-Dixon is anything but. Four pages of color reproductions, 38 photographs. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 978-0-517-41223-7
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