When one looks at a Monet, what exactly is one looking at? A framed painting, surely. And, too, as traditional art history texts would suggest, an "impression of light and atmosphere." But for art historian and painter Elkins, the essence of a painting--" what painting is" --goes beyond such abstractions. For one must not overlook the "process" of painting itself, the process by which artists get their hands dirty mixing oils and pigments, jabbing and scraping until one day the mess of paint blobs magically emerges as water lilies (or a haystack or a field of poppies) on the canvas. Indeed, it is the transformative power of the act of painting that Elkins explores in What Painting Is and that he elucidates expertly by way of another transformative art--the ancient practice of alchemy. In each of the nine chapters, Elkins draws parallels between artistic and alchemical processes. Like the alchemist, the painter sequesters him-or herself into the studio to mix and match substances in search of a recipe that will turn unpromising materia prima into the perfect painting (the philosopher's stone). Elkins, a true alchemist of ideas, has conjured up an original and insightful book that is sure to transform the reader's understanding of painting. Veronica Scrol --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"...one of the few essential books on oil painting...No book now in print heightens one's feel for the reality of painting--as object and pursuit--better than What Painting Is." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"A remarkable discussion...an extraordinary evocation of art and oil painting." -- Leon Golub, painter
"This book is brilliant." -- Frank Auerbach, painter
The book starts out captivating then it suddenly shifts to Elkinks views of painting, that are strongly bent to the favor of abstractionist. Read morePublished on Feb. 17 2004 by T. shock
Ok, I understand what Elkins is trying to do here. The Metaphor is fascinating: Painting is like antiquarian alchemy. Read morePublished on Jan. 8 2003 by Unlucky Frank
This is a serious book for painters. If you are having a problem with what or why you're painting, this book may help. It seeks to explain painting from a truly unique viewpiont. Read morePublished on Dec 5 2002 by D. Schreiber