The updated edition of Julian Barnes’ best-loved writing on art, with seven new exquisite illustrated essays
‘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, Morisot, Fantin-Latour, Cézanne, Degas, Cassatt, Redon, Van Gogh, the legendary critic Huysmans, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton, Braque, Magritte, Oldenburg, Howard Hodgkin and Lucian Freud. It also offers new perspectives on the fruitful relationship between writers and artists, and on the rivalry among Russian collectors of French art in the late 19th century.
‘A typically elegant and absorbing book by one of the greatest contemporary English writers.’ Guardian *Books of the Year*
‘Gave me a new confidence in how to understand and, more importantly, enjoy wandering around an exhibition.’ Mariella Frostrup
‘My book of the year.’ Natalie Haynes, Independent
[A] beautifully produced and judiciously illustrated collection.
The essay on Lucian Freud...is completely brilliant. I feel uplifted by it... It is a wonderful book.
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.
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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.