Review – Looking At Paintings

Looking at Paintings: A Private View Looking at Paintings: A Private View by Richard Cottrell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Cottrell is very good at looking at the tableau, at the mise en scene, of a painting – as you would expect of a theatre director. His value lies in a meticulous précis of what is actually going on, in detail, in the picture (though I don’t always agree – what gestures and looks mean, even what objects are depicted, can be debatable). It is good to be reminded that you can too easily “yada yada yada” when you look at, for example, a religious work – another fucking Madonna con Bambino. The devil is in the detail, and Cottrell writes carefully about detail, and implied relationships, and movement in space. What isn’t his strong point is what is going on beyond the surface of the work – context, esoteric subtext, exegesis. But that’s OK. This is a primer, and it’s lovely to read an unabashed selection based on personal taste. It puts me in mind of what I might have chosen, just like those 100 Best Albums of ALL TIME crazy-making articles you get in music journalism. It shits all over Gombrich. Do people still read that?

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