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Look Again

How to Experience the Old Masters

Mr Ossian Ward


An approachable guide to Old Master painting from an intriguing new perspective

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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.

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'An illuminating, down-to-earth guide to the Old Masters – one which will have readers itching to get down to the National Gallery to put this new way of seeing into action'

'A thought-provoking and gorgeously illustrated book, striking the right balance between technical knowledge and accessibility'
The Lady

'Go along to an art gallery – and take a look again'
Robert Elms, BBC Radio London

'Brilliant … Read this and, next time you’re at an exhibition, you’ll sound like you know your art from your elbow'
Daily Mail

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Further Details


Format: Flexibound

Size: 19.6 x 14.8 cm

Extent: 176 pp

Publication date: 25 April 2019

ISBN: 9780500239674

Contents List

Foreword and notes on usage • Introduction: A New Way of Seeing the Old • 1. Art as Honesty • 2. Art as Philosophy • 3. Art as Drama • 4. Art as Beauty • 5. Art as Horror • 6. Art as Paradox • 7. Art as Folly • 8. Art as Vision

About the Author

Ossian Ward is Head of Content at the Lisson Gallery. He was previously chief art critic and visual arts editor at Time Out London and served as editor at Art Review and V&A Magazine.