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Antoine's Alphabet [Kindle Edition]

Jed Perl
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
You Save: $3.16 (21%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Antoine Watteau, one of the most mysterious painters who ever lived, is the inspiration for this delightful investigation of the tangled relationship between art and life. Weaving together historical fact and personal reflections, the influential art critic Jed Perl reconstructs the amazing story of this pioneering bohemian artist who, although he died in 1721, when he was only thirty-six, has influenced innumerable painters and writers in the centuries since—and whose work continues to deepen our understanding of the place that love, friendship, and pleasure have in our daily lives.

Perl creates an astonishing experience by gathering his reflections on this “master of silken surfaces and elusive emotions” in the form of an alphabet—a fairy tale for adults—giving us a new way to think about art. This brilliant collage of a book is a hunt for the treasure of Watteau’s life and vision that encompasses the glamour and intrigue of eighteenth-century Paris, the riotous history of Harlequin and Pierrot, and the work of such modern giants as Cézanne, Picasso, and Samuel Beckett.

By turns somber and beguiling, analytical and impressionistic, Antoine’s Alphabet reaffirms the contemporary relevance of the greatest of all painters of young love and imperishable dreams. It is a book to savor, to share, to return to again and again.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The 18th-century rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau is art critic Perl's favorite painter, one who transforms powerful feelings—of love, friendship, lust, avidity, curiosity—into delectable artistic play and poetic pattern. Perl's exquisitely composed study is organized alphabetically; from Actors and Art-for-Art's Sake to Zeuxis, and each chapter involves a theme, individual or movement related to Watteau. There are many delightful surprises, even to the reader familiar with the artist's oeuvre; Perl illuminates the links between Watteau's Harlequins and Pierrots and Beckett's characters, so clownish and so heartrending. His entry on Flirtation expands this theme, ubiquitous in Watteau's paintings, into a profound commentary on love and metamorphosis. Perl's essays on Watteau's most famous works, The Pilgrimage to the Isle of Cythera and Gersaint's Shopsign, are equally inspired; Cythera displays what for Perl are Watteau's most poignant themes: the confounding of one's own emotions and the elegant chaos of the mind's consistently contradictory nature. Perl, art critic for the New Republic, has written a carefully researched, book of rare beauty and provocation. 44 illus. (Sept. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

After the inclusiveness of New Art City (2005), art critic Perl focuses on a single artist, his favorite, the early-eighteenth-century French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. Anticipating surprise at his choice, Perl vanquishes any and all trivialized views, declaring that this painter of frolicsome and romantic scenes of “lovers and dreamers” in unkempt, secretive gardens is an artist of audacity and resonance. Emulating “the sneakiness of Watteau’s seriousness,” Perl marshals his considerable interpretative acuity and extraordinary gift for fresh language to create a sophisticated variation on the alphabet book. This form allows Perl to free-associate in one clever entry after another as he interprets Watteau’s bold extrapolation of the commedia dell’arte and quest to depict “the struggle to feel fully alive.” Perl ponders what little is known of this quicksilver painter, who died at 36 in 1721, and muses over the insights of such fellow Watteau enthusiasts as Samuel Beckett. The ebullience, mischief, and discernment of this artful lexicon perfectly embody the shimmer and steeliness of Watteau’s incisive drawings and paintings. Works we’ll never view lightly again. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • File Size: 1691 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001FSL2KS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #827,709 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art book full of wonder! January 7, 2012
By scalper
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Original purchase was a fluke - trying to figure out wife's best painting-series I happened upon this book at going out of bs sale. After reading, passed it on to wife who also fell in love with author's unique word-picture narrative like we have never experienced. Bought another to pass on to scholarly neighbor and his wife and plan to purchase more for same reason. Read this work of art and expand your world of the meaning of art. This author has written an art critique like none I have ever read. it is much more than a work on art or artist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUPERB BOOK! December 9, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I couldn't put this book down. Read it in one evening and feel the love of Jed's aesthetic, warm, coy, intellect!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fascinating little book... September 24, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book a few years ago on a whim (from Amazon) while trawling the site...and I love it. I love the(physical) book, itself, as much as its content, which is clever,stimulating,thought provoking & very intelligent.
The book is small and precise and sports a beautiful cover painting by Watteau. What a marvelous gift for the person with everything. Worry no more. *JTQ
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing June 5, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Perl illuminates so many things in so many different ways. There's really no one else writing like him. This is a great appreciation of an artist I had paid little attention to but because it's Perl writing, I'm thoroughly taken with it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not Happy. May 29, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this book disappointing self indulgent a ramble. A confection that wasn't for me. I may have missed the point.
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