In this posthumous collection of John Updike’s art writings, a companion volume to the acclaimed Just Looking (1989) and Still Looking (2005), readers are again treated to “remarkably elegant essays” (Newsday) in which “the psychological concerns of the novelist drive the eye from work to work until a deep understanding of the art emerges” (The New York Times Book Review).
Always Looking opens with “The Clarity of Things,” the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities for 2008. Here, in looking closely at individual works by Copley, Homer, Eakins, Norman Rockwell, and others, the author teases out what is characteristically “American” in American art. This talk is followed by fourteen essays, most of them written for The New York Review of Books, on certain highlights in Western art of the last two hundred years: the iconic portraits of Gilbert Stuart and the sublime landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church, the series paintings of Monet and the monotypes of Degas, the richly patterned canvases of Vuillard and the golden extravagances of Klimt, the cryptic triptychs of Beckmann, the personal graffiti of Miró, the verbal-visual puzzles of Magritte, and the monumental Pop of Oldenburg and Lichtenstein. The book ends with a consideration of recent works by a living American master, the steely sculptural environments of Richard Serra.
John Updike was a gallery-goer of genius. Always Looking is, like everything else he wrote, an invitation to look, to see, to apprehend the visual world through the eyes of a connoisseur.
Table of Contents
PREFACE: PICTURES AND WORDS
“THE CLARITY OF THINGS”
[Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities for 2008]
[Gilbert Stuart, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 21, 2004–January 16, 2005]
THE LOVE OF FACTS
[Treasures from Olana: Landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church, at the National Academy Museum, New York, February 9–April 30, 2006]
THE ARTFUL CLARKS
[The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings, at the Sterlin and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, June 4–September 4, 2006]
[Monet in the ‘90s: The Series Paintings, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, February 7–April 29, 1990]
[Degas Landscapes, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 21–April 3, 1994]
AN INTIMATE WHIRLWIND
[The Intimate Interiors of Édouard Vuillard, at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, May 18–July 30, 1990]
GOLD AND GELD
[Gustav Klimt: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections, at Neue Galerie in New York, October 18, 2007–June 30, 2008]
BRIDGES TO THE INVISIBLE
[Max Beckmann in Exile, at the Guggenheim Museum Soho, New York, October 9, 1996–January 5, 1997]
MIRÓ AT MOMA
[Joan Miró, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 17, 1993–January 11, 1994]
THE ART OF OUR DISORDER
[Surrealism USA, at the National Academy Museum, New York, February 17–May 8, 2005]
MAGRITTE THE GREAT
[Magritte, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 12–November 12, 1992]
A CASE OF MONUMENTALITY
[Claes Oldenburg’s Closepin]
BIG, BRIGHT, AND BENDAYED
[Roy Lichtenstein, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 8, 1993–January 16, 1994]
[Richard Serra: Forty Years, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 3–September 10, 2007]
About John 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.
About Christopher Carduff
Christopher Carduff, the editor of this volume, is a member of the staff of The Library of America.