The art of the past can seem very far away, obscured both by time and by knotty academic theory. Foregrounding the experience of the contemporary viewer, Look Again shows how this need not be the case. From the spectacular theatrics of Bosch to the harmonious simplicity of Cézanne, Ossian Ward tackles some of history’s greatest art in all its dynamism, horror and beauty. Ward’s simple, ten-step programme acts as an aid to looking, breaking down the often obscure strategies of the Old Masters into intuitive categories – from Art as Honesty to Art as Vision.
Look Again’s novel approach is influenced by John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, but is here updated for the art world of the 21st century. Key to this book is an emphasis on ways not simply of looking at Old Masters, but also of experiencing them. Just as contemporary art should be judged by how it moves us, cajoles us and envelops us, so too can the great paintings of the world be seen as immersive, captivating, even participatory experiences.
Ward does not deny the specific complexities and barriers associated with looking at art from other eras. Instead he offers readers a new formula to help illuminate this kind of art. His method not only provides the viewer with the tools to interpret a work of art, but also assumes that we hold some of this knowledge within ourselves already. In other words, everyone can share the enriching experience of Old Master paintings.