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A New Way of Seeing

The History of Art in 57 Works

Kelly Grovier


A new way of appreciating art that puts the artwork front and centre, brought to us by one of the freshest and most exciting voices in cultural criticism


What makes great art great? Why do some works pulse in the imagination, generation after generation, century after century? From Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to Picasso’s Guernica, some paintings and sculptures have become so famous, so much a part of who we are, that we no longer really look at them. We take their greatness for granted; our eyes have become near-obsolete. We need a new way of seeing.

Unsatisfied with traditional interpretations of masterpieces, which are so often interested only in learning about art, and not from it, Kelly Grovier combed the surface of revered works from the Terracotta Army to Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits, in a quest to find the key to their lasting power to move and delight us. He discovered that every truly great work is hardwired with an underappreciated detail that ignites it from deep within.

Stepping away from biography, style and the chronology of ‘isms’ that preoccupies most art history, Grovier tells a new story in which we learn from the artworks, not just about them.

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'Finally, a book that asks, with a restless and sensitive eye, what it is that makes masterpieces sing across the centuries. A highly enjoyable history of art that is also a fascinating meditation on excellence'
Jonathan Jones, art critic

'Grovier makes the case for the endless depths of interpretative potential in any great work of art. There is, indeed, always more to see'
Times Literary Supplement

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 256 pp

Publication date: 3 March 2022

ISBN: 9780500295564

Contents List

Introduction: A Touch of Strangeness

Ashurbanipal Hunting Lions (c. 645–635 BC)
Parthenon Sculptures (c. 444 BC)
Terracotta Army of the First Qin Emperor (c. 210 BC)
Villa of the Mysteries murals (c. 60–50 BC)
Laocoön and his Sons (c. 27 BC–AD 68)
Trajan’s Column (AD 113), Apollodorus of Damascus
The Book of Kells (c. AD 800)
Travellers among Mountains and Streams (c. 1000), Fan K’uan
Bayeux Tapestry (c. 1077 or after)
The Universal Man (c. 1165), Hildegard of Bingen
The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (c. 1427), Masaccio
Ghent Altarpiece (1430–32), Jan van Eyck
The Descent from the Cross (1430–32), Rogier van der Weyden
The Annunciation (c. 1438–47), Fra Angelico
The Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c. 1480), Andrea Mantegna
The Birth of Venus (c. 1482–85), Sandro Botticelli
Mona Lisa (c. 1503–6), Leonardo da Vinci
The Garden of Earthly Delights (1505–10), Hieronymus Bosch
Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes (1508–12), Michelangelo
The School of Athens (1510–11), Raphael
Isenheim Altarpiece (1512–16), Matthias Grünewald
Bacchus and Ariadne (1520–23), Titian
Self-Portrait (1548), Catharina van Hemessen
Crucifixion (1565–87), Tintoretto
The Supper at Emmaus (1601), Caravaggio
The Ecstasy of St Teresa (1647–52), Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Las Meninas (1656), Diego Velázquez
Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665), Johannes Vermeer
Self-Portrait with Two Circles (c. 1665–69), Rembrandt van Rijn
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768), Joseph Wright of Derby
The Nightmare (1781), Henry Fuseli
The Third of May 1808 (1814), Francisco Goya
The Hay Wain (1821), John Constable
Rain, Steam, and Speed - The Great Western Railway (1844), J. M. W. Turner
Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist’s Mother) (1871), James Abbott
McNeill Whistler
The Thinker (1880–1904), Auguste Rodin
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882), Édouard Manet
Bathers at Asnières (1884), Georges Seurat
The Scream (1893), Edvard Munch
The Large Bathers (1900–6), Paul Cézanne
Group IV, No. 7, Adulthood (1907), Hilma af Klint
The Kiss (1907), Gustav Klimt
Dance (1909–10), Henri Matisse
Water Lilies (1914–26), Claude Monet
Fountain (1917), Marcel Duchamp
American Gothic (1930), Grant Wood
The Persistence of Memory (1931), Salvador Dalí
Guernica (1937), Pablo Picasso
L’Égypte de Mlle Cléo de Mérode: cours élémentaire d’histoire naturelle (1940), Joseph Cornell
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940), Frida Kahlo
One: Number 31 (1950), Jackson Pollock
Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953), Francis Bacon
Brillo Boxes (1964), Andy Warhol
Backs and Fronts (1981), Sean Scully
Betty (1988), Gerhard Richter
Maman (1999), Louise Bourgeois
The Artist is Present (2010), Marina Abramovic

Sources and Further Reading
Picture Credits

About the Author

Kelly Grovier is a feature writer for BBC Culture and the author of several acclaimed studies of art, including 100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age, Art Since 1989 and On the Line, all published by Thames & Hudson. His writings have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, The Independent, the Sunday Times, the Observer, the RA Magazine and Wired magazine. His history of London’s Newgate Prison, The Gaol, was a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’. He is co-founder of the scholarly journal European Romantic Review.