Great works of art cannot be fully understood in a single encounter: to revisit and reconsider art again and again throughout one’s life is to be richly rewarded with an ever-deepening appreciation and insight. Similar benefits come from analysing a work of art in detail.
Art in Detail: 100 Masterpieces spotlights the finer points that even connoisseurs may miss, casting light upon minutiae that a quick glance will almost certainly fail to reveal. These include subtle internal details, such as hidden symbols. Expert commentary reveals the technical tricks employed by the artist to achieve particular effects, such as the placement of the subject, the lighting and the style of brushstrokes. The book also looks at the themes and external and personal factors influencing the creation of an artwork – everything from the broad socio-economic context in which the artist operated, to personal, individual circumstances at the time of the work’s creation, which are often of great relevance.
The book examines 100 works of art down the ages, from Giotto’s 14th-century fresco Adoration of the Magi, to a twenty-first-century pastel by Paula Rego. It approaches each work not only, to quote Matthew Arnold, ‘as in itself it really is’, but also as part of a tradition that links the oldest work of art to the most recent, as artists pass a metaphorical baton down through the ages.