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  1. #1
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    Books on art theory?

    I've been trying to fill some of the gaps in my college education recently, and I thought it would be good to do some reading up on art theory/criticism/opinions. I know we've got a handful of extremely well-read artists here so I was hoping you'd be willing to share a few choice books to start me off in the right direction. Not so much interested in technical books, but rather the theory behind art itself. Some of that obnoxiously heady stuff.

    Thanks in advance.

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    Noah, I have a shitload of books in that area buried somewhere in the mess I call a house. Been a few decades since I'v looked at most of them, so I'll dig 'em out and see if I can find anything useful. Any particular area of interest at your end?

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    Have you read "Art and Fe..."? D'oh!

    Yeah, that is such a broad topic Noah, hard to know what particular focus you're interested in. I like reading a variety of things, often focused on particular artists or movements. Then there are the basic college texts that sort of survey and connect a wide range of theories and history.

    On a fairly practical level (in addition to the technique stuff), Schmid's "Alla Prima" is great, and so is "Oil Painting Secrests from a Master" by Leffel. Much more about working philosophy than technique.

    There is "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri that is considered a classic.
    "The Artist's Way" byJulia Cameron is kind of a more personal view on creativity and in a similar vein to "Art and Fear".
    There is a little known book which is a great read called, "How To Become a Famous Artist and Still Paint Pictures" by Joe Innis.

    A decent used book store in a college town should have a pretty good section of this kind of thing - at least mine does. I particularly like a series of small books on artists/movements such as Minimalism, O'Keefe, etc. But can't put my fingers on one right now, 'cause they're probably buried over at Ilaekae's house.

    Edit: And now I see you already have a couple of those on your "Top Ten" list...not surprised, should have checked first!

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    Yeah Jeff, already read most of those. But thanks for the ones I hadn't heard of.

    As for what I'm looking for, I guess I'd like an overview of some of the major works that have defined art and art criticism--probably with a focus on the last century or two. I know names like Greensburg and such but am not sure if anyone around here has some good recommendations on the most important books/essays to read. Similar things written by artists on art-making itself (along the lines of the Art Spirit) would also be great.

    Essentially I'd like to start delving into the intellectual side of art. Considering pushing a touch into the fine art realm someday and would like to be well-informed.

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    Subscribe to Art Forum Magazine and burn every copy before you read it. Trust me, you'll be doing all of us a favor...

    No position or belief, whether religious, political or social, is valid if one has to lie to support it.--Alj Mary

    Ironically, the concept of SIMPLICITY is most often misunderstood by simple-minded people. --Alj Mary
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    Haha, fair enough. Really appreciate the input. In absence of writing written by non-artists, are there many good writings by the artists themselves?

    Good histories of the art movements of the last century would also be interesting to me. Art school taught me a lot, but it failed to teach me plenty.

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    Might check out "Understanding Paintings: Themes in Art Explored and Explained" by Sturgis and Clayson. Pretty accessible overview of main themes and movements broken up into discreet chapters. Hmmmm...I just read the user reviews though...it may not be in depth enough. Anyway, here it is: Understanding Paintings.
    Keep in mind, I buy these books hoping to assimilate their knowledge by proximity rather than activity.

    Seems like there were a couple interesting books that anaylyzed paintings, I'm sure I bought one...but they might be more content oriented rather than philosophy or idea oriented.

    You might like this one: Artists on Art. I've had that in my library like 25 years...I even move it occasionally. Might not be modern/recent enough though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    NEVER believe a word about art that doesn't come from a real artist.
    The problem with that is that artists are generally already too busy making art so that leaves writers.

    Actually, I think there is good reason to read some of the authors Kevin named, if for nothing else, than to understand why 20th century art progressed the way it did. Then just make sure you read Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word as an antidote.

    In an art history vein, a very interesting read is The Judgement of Paris by Ross King. It tells the story of the Impressionism's rise to the spotlight, but its really a fascinating look at the world of 19th century artworld and the Paris Salons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noah Bradley View Post
    Haha, fair enough. Really appreciate the input. In absence of writing written by non-artists, are there many good writings by the artists themselves?

    Good histories of the art movements of the last century would also be interesting to me. Art school taught me a lot, but it failed to teach me plenty.
    Arthur Danto The Death of Art is a great read based on his Carnegie-Melon Lectures.Of course theres Ruskin's Modern Painters

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    Henry Rankin Poore Art Principles in Practice

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    I saw these two at a library recently. There's also one book specifically on Bible-themed paintings.

    Books on art theory?
    How to Read a Modern Painting: Lessons from the Modern Masters

    Books on art theory?
    How to Read a Painting: Lessons from the Old Masters

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    Also, you may want to dig into psychology and various humanities a bit.

    Something interesting my teacher says... "Lot of great artists don't do the kind of art that everyone else wants them to, or thinks they should (especially the critics and curators)"

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    Art in Theory for whatever period you're after (1815-1900 or 1900-2000). huge anthology of everything from artists and critics.

    Theories of Modern Art is similar and covers mostly artists' writings from Cezanne to the mid-'60s.

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    Not sure if this is what you might be looking for but I found this book to be a good overview.

    History of Beauty by Umberto Eco

    http://www.amazon.com/History-Beauty...914936&sr=8-11

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    Never read the writings of non-artists, and never read the writings of non-WRITERS!



    hah! lol

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    Aristotle was a non-artist and his writings on poetry are pretty damn important.

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    Quote Originally Posted by armando View Post
    Aristotle was a non-artist and his writings on poetry are pretty damn important.
    But where do you draw the line.

    Artists are allowed to be heard when they write, but A non-artist can't write about art because they can't produce what they are writing about?

    (devil's advocate ova hurr) <---

    This goes towards the general idea that you can't write about something you have no personal experience with (though true in some cases, not all).

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
    -John Huston, Director
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    I believe that non-artists(edit: maybe non-art-maker would be a better phrase?) can write about art, and with perception and insight. I think that the only thing they can't right about would be technical procedures, like what brush to use, how strictly to plot out perspective, how to divide the canvas.
    more edit: One recent thing I find interesting is what scientists are doing with eye path sensor technology, like what was featured on Gurney's blog.

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    I don't think he was writing about writing. I feel pretentious trying to say anything about Aristotle, all I know is that he wasn't a playwright. The scanners did show that people don't follow the eye paths, it's not a lot but it's something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noah Bradley View Post
    I've been trying to fill some of the gaps in my college education recently, and I thought it would be good to do some reading up on art theory/criticism/opinions. I know we've got a handful of extremely well-read artists here so I was hoping you'd be willing to share a few choice books to start me off in the right direction. Not so much interested in technical books, but rather the theory behind art itself. Some of that obnoxiously heady stuff.

    Thanks in advance.
    Matisse on Art edited by Jack Flam is very good.
    It's a series of writings and recorded interviews with the artist over his entire career.

    I know you enjoyed the book 'Art 'n' Fear' so you may want to have a look at 'Zen in the Art of Archery' by Eugen Herrigel.

    From Gegarin's point of view
    http://www.chrisbennettartist.co.uk/
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  33. #21
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    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Really appreciate all the suggestions, guys. Can't wait to start reading 'em.

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    I'm not sure how relevant it is to what you are aiming for but Immanuel Kant is very well known for his writings on aesthetics.

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