cover image Just Looking: Essays on Art

Just Looking: Essays on Art

John Updike. Alfred A. Knopf, $35 (210pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57904-7

The wit and sharp observation one expects from novelist/short story writer/poet/essayist Updike are found in these 23 pieces on art, supplemented by 193 plates. He offers trenchant views on Monet (``painting Nature in her nudity''); John Singer Sargent (``too facile''); Andrew Wyeth's ``heavily hyped'' series of Helga nudes; Degas's ``patient invention of the snapshot before the camera itself was technically able to arrest motion and record the poetry of visual accident.'' He hops playfully from the ``tender irony'' of Richard Estes's hyperrealist Telephone Booths to a Vermeer townscape, and from children's book illustration to American children as depicted by Winslow Homer. He pauses to savor the unfamiliar or forgotten: Ralph Barton's wiry New Yorker cartoons, French sculptor Jean Ipousteguy's futuristic re-visioning of human anatomy, the elaborate, studied fantasies of churchgoing Yankee painter Erastus Salisbury Field. (Oct.)