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Let's See: Writings on Art from The New Yorker Hardcover – May 26, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 75 exuberant essays written for the New Yorker during the past 10 years, art critic Schjeldahl covers works from antiquity to the present. Many of his longtime favorite artists, including Fra Angelico, Manet, Eakins, Calder and Brice Marden, come in for praise. But one of Schjeldahl's virtues is that he can change his mind, as he does in enthusiastic reappraisals of Tintoretto, Chardin, Winslow Homer, John Currin and Christo's The Gates. He scolds connoisseurs who turn up their noses at shows like the Guggenheim's 1900: Art at the Crossroads, which consisted of paintings that were too popular for sober-sided intellectuals. In Varieties of Museum Experience, he offers a trenchant critique of various types of museums and praises Munich's new Pinakothek der Moderne, which offers a treat rather than a treatment. Controversy, like that surrounding the 1999 show Sensation at the Brooklyn Museum, delights him, and he is not afraid to be charmed by art that is out of fashion, such as the Victorian Fairy Painting exhibit at the Frick in 1998. We need to recover the pleasure principle in our experience of art and in our public talk about it, Schjeldahl says. (May 27)
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About the Author

is the author of numerous books of poems and criticism and has taught at Harvard University. He lives in New York.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; First Edition edition (May 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500238456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500238455
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,260,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Peter Schjeldahl was just awarded the 2008 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, which recognizes one writer each year who promotes the public appreciation of the visual arts in a way that "is grounded in scholarship yet appeals to a wide audience."

'Let's See,' Schjeldahl's new collection of his essays from the New Yorker, shows why he won this prestigious award and also shows how far he has come as an art critic.

Years ago, when I used to live in Manhattan (in a studio big enough for me, my cat, and a hot-plate), I used to read Schjeldahl, who then wrote for the Village Voice, which even at that time was a pretty second-rate rag. I never really liked Schjeldahl's writing back then. He was really snarky, a kind of a hipster-poser smartypants type. But in reading 'Let's See,' or his New Yorker essays in general, you'll notice immediately that he has matured both in his attitude towards his job and in his writing style, which is consistently straightforward, to the point, and memorable. (Schjeldahl is also an award-winning poet, and his love of language shows in his criticism as well.)

I can't say that I always agree with Schjeldahl's taste in art. John Currin seems to be one of his favorites (the cover image is a Currin painting) and despite Schjeldahl's frequent praise, I just can't see why this guy is good, much less great. But you don't need to agree with all of Schjeldahl's opinions to see that they are carefully reasoned and based on a deep love and understanding of art built up over a lifetime.

Of course, some of the artists that Schjeldahl praises here are basically no-brainers: Velazquez, Vermeer, El Greco. Who doesn't like those painters?
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Schjeldahl's accumulation of reviews from the renaissance to recent contemporary art is a fun read once you get past the author's rather pedantic writing style. I don't think I have ever encountered "insouciance" more frequently in my life. His interview with gallerist Marian Goodman was better than some of the art reviews. He has strong opinions when it comes to contemporary art--and probably the experience to back them up.
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I love Peter Schjeldahl's New Yorker reviews. This book gave me a totally different sense of Picasso -- even after reading more than one biography, I didn't get the visceral underpinnings of his art until I read Schjeldahl's piece on Picasso's sexuality in this collection. I feel enriched in my ability to look at and understand my own reactions to art from experiencing PS's description of his experiences with paintings in particular. Highly recommended for an entertaining and a real reaction to the art and the art world
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He is simply the best writer on art there is. It is not easy to illuminate all that a piece of visual art does for a person who cannot see the piece. Peter studied and wrote poetry for years which is the perfect training for this task. It is just a joy to read.
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This book is thoughtfully written by one of the best art critics out there. Appreciation and cynicism at every page gives the reader plenty to consider. From topics like lanscape to still life, with artists from Ingres to Freud, in this book Schjeldahl reveals it all in one place. If you love his articles in the New Yorker, you won't put down this book.
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This book is a remarkable lesson in clarity, in observations from a erudite art lover and critic, a writer who is as much in love with the English language at its best as he is in evaluating art at its best. This is not a book that you pick up and read through but a book that you savor and read a bit now and then - as you would sip a fine glass of wine. Oh yes, keep your dictionary close at hand.
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I am an art critic. This books helps me to SEE and to write. His writing is first rate. His observations and ruminations about art spot on, even if you don't agree with his likes and dislikes. Highly recommended for anyone who loves art. And even if you don't, it might tweek your interest in taking a gander to a gallery or museum and seeing this fascinating world. I learned so much reading this book. Thank you, Peter(after reading your book I feel like we're chums).
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