In the third volume of his Looking series of art-essay collections, following Just Looking (1989) and Still Looking (2005), and published posthumously, Updike expands on his articulation of the complex pleasures of intense scrutiny. He is sensuously receptive and discerningly critical as he peers closely and steps back for a more encompassing gaze to assess how each artist brings paint to life. Most of the essays are scintillating and learned biographical and aesthetic responses to major museum exhibits of such artists as Édouard Vuillard, René Magritte, Max Beckmann, Joan Miró, and Richard Serra. But in “The Clarity of Things,” his 2008 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, Updike discusses Picturing America—a set of 40 reproductions created by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities for use in schools and libraries, taking fresh approaches to Gilbert Stuart, Winslow Homer, and Norman Rockwell and posing and answering the question, “What is American about American art?” For all their immediacy, Updike’s vital works of art criticism are timeless. --Donna Seaman
About the Author
John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, including twenty-three novels and dozens of collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His work has been honored with the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Gold Medal for Fiction of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died in January 2009.
Christopher Carduff is a member of the staff of The Library of America and the editor of John Updike’s Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism.