The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa

3.88 avg rating
( 2,718 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780143037330: The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa

A New York Times bestseller—a dazzling and inspirational survey of how art can be found and appreciated in everyday life

Michael Kimmelman, the prominent New York Times writer and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, is known as a deep and graceful writer across the disciplines of art and music and also as a pianist who understands something about the artist's sensibility from the inside. Readers have come to expect him not only to fill in their knowledge about art but also to inspire them to think about connections between art and the larger world - which is to say, to think more like an artist. Kimmelman's many years of contemplating and writing about art have brought him to this wise, wide-ranging, and long-awaited book.

It explores art as life's great passion, revealing what we can learn of life through pictures and sculptures and the people who make them. It assures us that art - points of contact with the exceptional that are linked straight to the heart - can be found almost anywhere and everywhere if only our eyes are opened enough to recognize it. Kimmelman regards art, like all serious human endeavors, as a passage through which a larger view of life may come more clearly into focus. His book is a kind of adventure or journey.

It carries the message that many of us may not yet have learned how to recognize the art in our own lives. To do so is something of an art itself. A few of the characters Kimmelman describes, like Bonnard and Chardin, are great artists. But others are explorers and obscure obsessives, paint-by-numbers enthusiasts, amateur shutterbugs, and collectors of strange odds and ends. Yet others, like Charlotte Solomon, a girl whom no one considered much of an artist but who secretly created a masterpiece about the world before her death in Auschwitz, have reserved spots for themselves in history, or not, with a single work that encapsulates a whole life.

Kimmelman reminds us of the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of wonders - the rage in seventeenth-century Europe and a metaphor for the art of life. Each drawer of the cabinet promises something curious and exotic, instructive and beautiful, the cabinet being a kind of ideal, self-contained universe that makes order out of the chaos of the world. The Accidental Masterpiece is a kind of literary Wunderkammer, filled with lively surprises and philosophical musings. It will inspire readers to imagine their own personal cabinet of wonders.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Michael Kimmelman is chief art critic of The New York Times and a contributor to The New York Review of Books. A native New Yorker, he was educated at Yale and Harvard, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and is the author of Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere, which was named as a notable book of the year by the Times and The Washington Post. He has written and hosted various television shows about the arts. He is also a pianist.

From The Washington Post:

Museums frame modern art in terms of masters such as Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock, but no painter in the 20th century influenced more people more directly than a retired Air Force sergeant named Bob Ross. The lack of critical attention devoted to Ross's oeuvre is understandable, given that most of his estimated 30,000 canvases are hackneyed landscapes, essentially interchangeable. His claim to fame was never the finished work, but rather that he made his art on TV, showing hundreds of millions of people worldwide how to brush in "happy little clouds" on "The Joy of Painting."

Michael Kimmelman's unironic appreciation of Ross is characteristic of his attitude toward art. As chief art critic for the New York Times, Kimmelman has eclectic taste by professional necessity, and the artists he discusses in The Accidental Masterpiece range accordingly, from Jan Vermeer to Marcel Duchamp, Willem de Kooning to Matthew Barney. His depictions are entertaining and insightful, as artful in their own way as many of the works he discusses. What distinguishes these fine essays, though, and gives him unexpected common ground with Bob Ross, is his openness, his generosity toward subject and reader. "I hope to approach the art of seeing here in the spirit of an amateur," he writes in his introduction. "I mean amateur in the original sense of the word, as a lover, someone who does something for the love of it, wholeheartedly."

Of course, it's one thing to have such enthusiasm, quite another to communicate it: A mere 3 percent of those who watched "The Joy of Painting" ever actually touched brush to canvas. Undoubtedly, Kimmelman will also attract his share of fellow travelers -- he frankly admits to writing "a book whose deepest ambition is simply to be a good read for anyone who happens to pick it up" -- but the artists he chooses to write about (Bob Ross aside) are themselves deeply engaged in the act of looking and in opening viewers' eyes through their work.

Perhaps the most straightforward case is Wayne Thiebaud, a contemporary California painter best known for his depiction of cakes and pies, whom Kimmelman admires for showing us "what's right in front of our noses." Because of his popular subject matter and '60s pedigree, Thiebaud is sometimes categorized as a Pop artist. Kimmelman prefers to compare him with the great 18th-century French painter of still lifes and interiors Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.

On the surface, the two artists' work looks nothing alike: While Chardin secretes careworn crockery and children's toys in darkened rooms, Thiebaud lines up decoratively colored baked goods on white countertops, composing his pictures, like a window-dresser, for maximum optical impact. Yet each artist is deeply engaged in imbuing the everyday with meaning, through the medium of paint. "Heroic artists like Michelangelo or Picasso could conjure up gods and heroes and mythological worlds, which might temporarily distract us from reality, stir our emotions, and elevate us into a higher realm," Kimmelman observes. "But it is the ability of more circumscribed artists to slow our systems, calm our minds, and show us reality as we have probably not considered it." The occasional spectacle is easy to spot, whereas a habit of watchfulness -- the patient eye of connoisseurship -- requires careful cultivation.

Which is not to privilege the quotidian. Kimmelman gives equal attention to artists working at the opposite extreme, most notably James Turrell, who has spent the past several decades tunneling into an Arizona desert volcano called Roden Crater, to create one of the largest works-in-progress of modern times. Turrell's sculptural medium is light, which he has projected, reflected, filtered and refracted to create a dazzling array of optical effects in gallery and museum installations around the world. The rooms inside Roden Crater, precisely positioned under exactingly calibrated apertures, are designed to optimize the experience of celestial phenomena. In one space, the sky appears to fall as the hours pass. In another, the moon aligns every 18.61 years. As Kimmelman describes it, "heightened perception is the goal: becoming more aware of how you see, not just what you see."

The remoteness of Roden Crater, 40 miles north of Flagstaff, is not merely a matter of $6-an-acre real estate: While Thiebaud's paintings remind us of pleasures in easy reach, Turrell's work is emboldened by its isolation and the trouble taken to find it. "Call it controlling if you want," Kimmelman writes, "but the time spent looking and thinking about a work is often proportionate to the effort made to get to it."

Accustomed to his keen critic's eye, Kimmelman is not always mindful of this lesson. If The Accidental Masterpiece has a fault, it is the impression that he gives, through his lucid description of even the most difficult art, that the discipline of connoisseurship is as effortlessly achieved as a Bob Ross landscape. Yet in a culture accustomed to viewing art vicariously through the mass media, if at all, a critic willing to place faith in viewers, guiding them to see for themselves, is a true visionary.

Reviewed by Jonathon Keats
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Michael Kimmelman
Published by Penguin Books, United Kingdom (2006)
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. A New York Times bestseller--a dazzling and inspirational survey of how art can be found and appreciated in everyday life Michael Kimmelman, the prominent New York Times writer and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, is known as a deep and graceful writer across the disciplines of art and music and also as a pianist who understands something about the artist s sensibility from the inside. Readers have come to expect him not only to fill in their knowledge about art but also to inspire them to think about connections between art and the larger world - which is to say, to think more like an artist. Kimmelman s many years of contemplating and writing about art have brought him to this wise, wide-ranging, and long-awaited book.It explores art as life s great passion, revealing what we can learn of life through pictures and sculptures and the people who make them. It assures us that art - points of contact with the exceptional that are linked straight to the heart - can be found almost anywhere and everywhere if only our eyes are opened enough to recognize it. Kimmelman regards art, like all serious human endeavors, as a passage through which a larger view of life may come more clearly into focus. His book is a kind of adventure or journey. It carries the message that many of us may not yet have learned how to recognize the art in our own lives. To do so is something of an art itself. A few of the characters Kimmelman describes, like Bonnard and Chardin, are great artists. But others are explorers and obscure obsessives, paint-by-numbers enthusiasts, amateur shutterbugs, and collectors of strange odds and ends. Yet others, like Charlotte Solomon, a girl whom no one considered much of an artist but who secretly created a masterpiece about the world before her death in Auschwitz, have reserved spots for themselves in history, or not, with a single work that encapsulates a whole life. Kimmelman reminds us of the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of wonders - the rage in seventeenth-century Europe and a metaphor for the art of life. Each drawer of the cabinet promises something curious and exotic, instructive and beautiful, the cabinet being a kind of ideal, self-contained universe that makes order out of the chaos of the world. The Accidental Masterpiece is a kind of literary Wunderkammer, filled with lively surprises and philosophical musings. It will inspire readers to imagine their own personal cabinet of wonders. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143037330

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
10.18
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Kimmelman, Michael
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
Paperbackshop-US
(Wood Dale, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description 2006. PAP. Book Condition: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Bookseller Inventory # VP-9780143037330

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
7.37
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.02
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Michael Kimmelman
Published by Penguin Books, United Kingdom (2006)
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New Paperback Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
Book Depository hard to find
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. A New York Times bestseller--a dazzling and inspirational survey of how art can be found and appreciated in everyday life Michael Kimmelman, the prominent New York Times writer and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, is known as a deep and graceful writer across the disciplines of art and music and also as a pianist who understands something about the artist s sensibility from the inside. Readers have come to expect him not only to fill in their knowledge about art but also to inspire them to think about connections between art and the larger world - which is to say, to think more like an artist. Kimmelman s many years of contemplating and writing about art have brought him to this wise, wide-ranging, and long-awaited book.It explores art as life s great passion, revealing what we can learn of life through pictures and sculptures and the people who make them. It assures us that art - points of contact with the exceptional that are linked straight to the heart - can be found almost anywhere and everywhere if only our eyes are opened enough to recognize it. Kimmelman regards art, like all serious human endeavors, as a passage through which a larger view of life may come more clearly into focus. His book is a kind of adventure or journey. It carries the message that many of us may not yet have learned how to recognize the art in our own lives. To do so is something of an art itself. A few of the characters Kimmelman describes, like Bonnard and Chardin, are great artists. But others are explorers and obscure obsessives, paint-by-numbers enthusiasts, amateur shutterbugs, and collectors of strange odds and ends. Yet others, like Charlotte Solomon, a girl whom no one considered much of an artist but who secretly created a masterpiece about the world before her death in Auschwitz, have reserved spots for themselves in history, or not, with a single work that encapsulates a whole life. Kimmelman reminds us of the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of wonders - the rage in seventeenth-century Europe and a metaphor for the art of life. Each drawer of the cabinet promises something curious and exotic, instructive and beautiful, the cabinet being a kind of ideal, self-contained universe that makes order out of the chaos of the world. The Accidental Masterpiece is a kind of literary Wunderkammer, filled with lively surprises and philosophical musings. It will inspire readers to imagine their own personal cabinet of wonders. Bookseller Inventory # BTE9780143037330

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
10.45
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Michael Kimmelman
Published by Penguin Books, United Kingdom (2006)
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
The Book Depository US
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. A New York Times bestseller--a dazzling and inspirational survey of how art can be found and appreciated in everyday life Michael Kimmelman, the prominent New York Times writer and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, is known as a deep and graceful writer across the disciplines of art and music and also as a pianist who understands something about the artist s sensibility from the inside. Readers have come to expect him not only to fill in their knowledge about art but also to inspire them to think about connections between art and the larger world - which is to say, to think more like an artist. Kimmelman s many years of contemplating and writing about art have brought him to this wise, wide-ranging, and long-awaited book.It explores art as life s great passion, revealing what we can learn of life through pictures and sculptures and the people who make them. It assures us that art - points of contact with the exceptional that are linked straight to the heart - can be found almost anywhere and everywhere if only our eyes are opened enough to recognize it. Kimmelman regards art, like all serious human endeavors, as a passage through which a larger view of life may come more clearly into focus. His book is a kind of adventure or journey. It carries the message that many of us may not yet have learned how to recognize the art in our own lives. To do so is something of an art itself. A few of the characters Kimmelman describes, like Bonnard and Chardin, are great artists. But others are explorers and obscure obsessives, paint-by-numbers enthusiasts, amateur shutterbugs, and collectors of strange odds and ends. Yet others, like Charlotte Solomon, a girl whom no one considered much of an artist but who secretly created a masterpiece about the world before her death in Auschwitz, have reserved spots for themselves in history, or not, with a single work that encapsulates a whole life. Kimmelman reminds us of the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of wonders - the rage in seventeenth-century Europe and a metaphor for the art of life. Each drawer of the cabinet promises something curious and exotic, instructive and beautiful, the cabinet being a kind of ideal, self-contained universe that makes order out of the chaos of the world. The Accidental Masterpiece is a kind of literary Wunderkammer, filled with lively surprises and philosophical musings. It will inspire readers to imagine their own personal cabinet of wonders. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143037330

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
10.48
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Kimmelman, Michael
Published by Penguin Books (2006)
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New Paperback Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # 0143037331

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
9.12
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 1.51
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Kimmelman, Michael
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New Quantity Available: 8
Seller:
Pbshop
(Wood Dale, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description 2006. PAP. Book Condition: New. New Book.Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Bookseller Inventory # IB-9780143037330

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
7.69
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.02
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Kimmelman, Michael (Author)
Published by Penguin Random House
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
INDOO
(Avenel, NJ, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Random House. Book Condition: New. Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 0143037331

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
8.17
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 2.65
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

Kimmelman, Michael
Published by Penguin Books 7/25/2006 (2006)
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New Paperback or Softback Quantity Available: 5
Seller:
BargainBookStores
(Grand Rapids, MI, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books 7/25/2006, 2006. Paperback or Softback. Book Condition: New. The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa. Book. Bookseller Inventory # BBS-9780143037330

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
11.46
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

Kimmelman, Michael
Published by Penguin Books
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 4
Seller:
Lakeside Books
(Benton Harbor, MI, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0143037331 BRAND NEW, GIFT QUALITY! NOT OVERSTOCKS OR MARKED UP REMAINDERS! DIRECT FROM THE PUBLISHER!|0.5. Bookseller Inventory # OTF-S-9780143037330

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
8.71
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.02
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

10.

Kimmelman, Michael
Published by Penguin Books
ISBN 10: 0143037331 ISBN 13: 9780143037330
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
Mediaoutlet12345
(Springfield, VA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0143037331 *BRAND NEW* Ships Same Day or Next!. Bookseller Inventory # SWATI2132203273

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
8.96
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.02
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book