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An indispensable introduction to how we experience art, how we look at it and how we think about it

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Overview

Beginning with a fragment of yellow jasper - all that is left of the face of an Egyptian woman who lived 3,500 years ago, more enigmatic even than the Mona Lisa - this book confronts the elusive questions: how, and why, do we look at art?

Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for thirty-one years (1977-2008), and the art critic Martin Gayford talked in art galleries, churches and museums, and their book is structured around their journeys. But whether they were in the Louvre or the Prado, the Mauritshuis or the Palazzo Pitti, they reveal the pleasures of truly looking at works of art - as well as some of the pitfalls.

This is neither a work of art history nor of criticism – though it touches on aspects of both. Nor is it a conventional travel book, though to write it the authors met on two continents and in six countries. Always their destination was some outstanding collection or individual work of art, and the resulting discussion started from what they saw. The result is highly unusual and very personal: a book about what it feels like to experience pictures and sculptures.

Both men convey, with subtlety and brilliance, the delights and significance of their subject matter - some of the greatest creations of human beings through our long history.

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Reviews

'Once you experience art the way de Montebello does, you will never look at a painting, a sculpture, or even a museum visit the same way'
Michael Levin, Huffington Post

'A kind of international visual Desert Island Discs … This book of shared enthusiasm is an example for those who try to look intelligently and a touching reminder of the experiences for many that already do'
The Art Newspaper

'Two very agreeable companions who sweep us up on a magic carpet to drop in on great works of art'
Literary Review

'Packed with insight on aesthetic experience, the context of museums, and how display affects how we look at art. A thought-provoking read'
Apollo

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Further Details

Specifications

Format: Hardback

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 248 pp

Illustrations: 75

Publication date: 8 September 2014

ISBN: 9780500239247

Contents List

Preface • Introduction: Yellow Jasper Lips at the Met • 1. Afternoon in Florence • 2. A Flood and a Chimera • 3. Immersed in the Bargello • 4. A Sense of Place • 5. The Case of the Duccio Madonna • 6. In the Met Café: A Biographical Interlude • 7. Princely Collections • 8. An Artistic Education Sentimentale • 9. Lost in the Louvre • 10. Crowds and the Power of Art: A Transatlantic Conversation • 11. In the Prado • 12. Hieronymus Bosch and the Hell of Looking at Art with Other People • 13. Titian and Velázquez • 14. Las Meninas • 15. Goya: An Excursion • 16. Rubens, Tiepolo, Goya Again • 17. Rotterdam: Museums and their Discontents • 18. Star-Spotting at the Mauritshuis • 19. Where Do You Put It? • 20. Exploring the Jungles of Paris • 21. Hunting Lions at the British Museum • 22. Lunch in the Great Court • 23. Fragments

About the Author

Philippe de Montebello is the longest-serving director in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s history. His retirement in 2008 was described as the end of an era ‘in the cultural life of the city, the state, the nation, and the world’. He is a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and an Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, and has a worldwide influence on cultural policies, often in an advisory capacity. He is now Fiske Kimball Professor at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts and an Honorary Trustee of the Prado Museum.

Martin Gayford is art critic for The Spectator and the author of acclaimed books on Van Gogh, Constable and Michelangelo. He is the author of Man with a Blue Scarf, Rendez-vous with Art and A Bigger Message. He has collaborated with David Hockney on A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney and A History of Pictures, and has co-written a volume of travels and conversations with Philippe de Montebello: Rendez-vous with Art.