‘Flaubert believed that it was impossible to explain one art form in terms of another, and that great paintings required no words of explanation. Braque thought the ideal state would be reached when we said nothing at all in front of a painting. But we are very far from reaching that state. We remain incorrigibly verbal creatures who love to explain things, to form opinions, to argue... It is a rare picture which stuns, or argues, us into silence. And if one does, it is only a short time before we want to explain and understand the very silence into which we have been plunged.’
Julian Barnes began writing about art with a chapter on Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa in his 1989 novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters. Since then he has written a series of remarkable essays, chiefly about French artists, which trace the story of how art made its way from Romanticism to Realism and into Modernism.
Fully illustrated in colour throughout, Keeping an Eye Open contains Barnes’ essays on Géricault, Delacroix, Courbet, Manet, Fantin-Latour, Cézanne, Degas, Redon, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton, Braque, Magritte, Oldenburg, Howard Hodgkin and Lucian Freud.
[A] beautifully produced and judiciously illustrated collection.
I became entirely mesmerised by Barnes’ prose… Keeping an Eye Open is a rich and thoughtful book that should not be rushed. These essays are too full of chiaroscuro, their flashes of illumination too fascinating, their connections too interesting for a cursory reading.
It’s a readable, riveting, informed work with sharp, marvelous anecdotes and observations. In this beautifully illustrated book you’re in great company. Barnes is a sane and steady guide… Wonderful stuff.
Extremely rewarding, informative, attentive, thoughtful, entertaining essays.
This is an erudite, entertaining and highly personal collection of essays from the Booker Prize-winning novelist.
No year is complete without a bit of reading reflection, and as we gaze at 2019's shelves, we're more than a bit pleased with the boldness and breadth of the last 12 months of VINTAGE books. From an insider's look at the realities of modern-day poverty to an acclaimed expose of the data bias towards men, and a long-awaited, Booker-winning dystopian smash hit, here are 10 of the biggest highlights.
An extract from the archive edition of Metroland
Man Booker Prize-winner Julian Barnes discusses the cover design of his new novel, The Noise of Time, with Suzanne Dean. Joined by Alex Clark, they recall key moments in their twenty-year working relationship, as well as the iconic covers that have been created.