cover image Looking at Pictures

Looking at Pictures

Joy Richardson. ABRAMS, $19.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-4252-3

Richardson's (Inside the Museum: A Children's Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art) jaunt through London's National Gallery covers such basic topics as the purposes of paintings, the function of frames and why people go to museums, as well as color, light, composition and subject matter. Copious reproductions (including more than 150 color reproductions) of works by nearly 80 of the usual European old boys (and one woman) cram the pages. Voake (Mr. Davies and the Baby) supplements these with small cartoons that riff on the artwork or frame cross-references. While much of the information is interesting, Robertson has traded depth for breadth, and her writing scants on details that might charge the writing with immediacy. Biographical details are sketchy at best; dates and dimensions of the works are absent; and the visually noisy layout reduces Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks to a kind of wallpaper. Generally undistinguished and sometimes muddied, the reproductions reflect Richardson's remark about museum-going: ""Sometimes people just want to get out of the rain."" All ages. (Apr.)