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  • Still Looking
  • Written by John Updike
  • Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781400044184
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Still Looking

Essays on American Art

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art (16) essays (7)
art (16) essays (7)
Synopsis|Table of Contents


When, in 1989, a collection of John Updike’s writings on art appeared under the title Just Looking, a reviewer in the San Francisco Chronicle commented, “He refreshes for us the sense of prose opportunity that makes art a sustaining subject to people who write about it.” In the sixteen years since Just Looking was published, he has continued to serve as an art critic, mostly for The New York Review of Books, and from fifty or so articles has selected, for this richly illustrated book, eighteen that deal with American art.

After beginning with early American portraits, landscapes, and the transatlantic career of John Singleton Copley, Still Looking then considers the curious case of Martin Johnson Heade and extols two late-nineteenth-century masters, Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. Next, it discusses the eccentric pre-moderns James McNeill Whistler and Albert Pinkham Ryder, the competing American Impressionists and Realists in the early twentieth century, and such now-historic avant-garde figures as Alfred Stieglitz, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and Elie Nadelman. Two appreciations of Edward Hopper and appraisals of Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol round out the volume.

America speaks through its artists. As Updike states in his introduction, “The dots can be connected from Copley to Pollock: the same tense engagement with materials, the same demand for a morality of representation, can be discerned in both.”

On Just Looking

“Some of these essays are marvelous examples of critical explanation, in which the psychological concerns of the novelist drive the eye from work to work in an exhibition until a deep understanding of the art emerges.”
—Arthur Danto, The New York Times Book Review

“These are remarkably elegant little essays, dense in thought and perception but offhandedly casual in style. Their brevity makes more acute the sense of regret one feels to see them end.” —Jeremy Strick, Newsday

Table of Contents


Introduction: An Oil on Canvas

The American Face [Portraits]

Nature His Only Instructor [John Singleton Copley]

“O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” [Nineteenth-Century Landscapes]

Heade Storms [Martin Johnson Heade]

Epic Homer [Winslow Homer]

The Ache in Eakins [Thomas Eakins]

Whistler in the Dark [James McNeill Whistler]

“Better Than Nature” [Albert Pinkham Ryder]

Walls That Talk too Much [Impressionists and Realists]

Street Arab [Childe Hassam]

Evangel of the Lens [Alfred Stieglitz]

“A Lone Left Thing” [Marsden Hartley]

O Pioneer! [Arthur Dove]

Two Takes on Hopper [Edward Hopper]

Logic Is Beautiful [Elie Nadelman]

Jackson Whole [Jackson Pollock]

Iconic Andy [Andy Warhol]

John Updike

About John Updike

John Updike - Still Looking

Photo © Martha Updike

John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hugging the Shore, an earlier collection of essays and reviews, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He died in January 2009.


NOMINEE National Book Critics Circle Awards

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