What Heaven Looks Like: Comments On A Strange Wordless Book by James ElkinsWhat Heaven Looks Like: Comments On A Strange Wordless Book by James Elkins

What Heaven Looks Like: Comments On A Strange Wordless Book

byJames Elkins

Hardcover | September 29, 2017

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An unknown masterpiece of visionary art - as daring as Blake or Goya, but utterly different - reproduced in full color, with a commentary by one of our most original art historiansSomewhere in Europe - we don't know where - around 1700. An artist is staring at something on the floor next to her worktable. It's just a log from the woodpile, stood on end. The soft, damp bark; the gently raised growth rings; the dark radial cracks - nothing could be more ordinary. But as the artist looks, and looks, colors begin to appear - shapes - even figures. She turns to a sheet of paper and begins to paint.Today this anonymous artist's masterpiece is preserved in the University of Glasgow Library. It is a manuscript in a plain brown binding, whose entire contents, beyond a cryptic title page, are fifty-two small, round watercolor paintings based on the visions she saw in the ends of firewood logs.This book reproduces the entire sequence of paintings in full color, together with a meditative commentary by the art historian James Elkins. Sometimes, he writes, we can glimpse the artist's sources - Baroque religious art, genre painting, mythology, alchemical manuscripts, emblem books, optical effects. But always she distorts her images, mixes them together, leaves them incomplete - always she rejects familiar stories and clear-cut meanings. In this daring refusal to make sense, Elkins seesan uncannily modern attitude of doubt and skepticism; he draws a portrait of the artist as an irremediably lonely, amazingly independent soul, inhabiting a distinct historical moment between the faded Renaissance and the overconfident Enlightenment.What Heaven Looks Like is a rare event: an encounter between a truly perceptive historian of images, and a master conjurer of them.
James Elkins is E. C. Chadbourne Chair of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His scholarship has focused on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature; his many books includeWhat Painting Is,Pictures and Tears, andThe Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing. Presently...
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Title:What Heaven Looks Like: Comments On A Strange Wordless BookFormat:HardcoverDimensions:128 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.65 inPublished:September 29, 2017Publisher:Laboratory BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1946053023

ISBN - 13:9781946053022

Reviews

Editorial Reviews

Critical Praise forWhat Heaven Looks Like by James ElkinsA cryptic artifact . . . is the source of endless fascination in this alluring annotated reproduction." - Publishers WeeklyIt might be a delicious intrigue cooked up by Borges: a manuscript of fuzzy provenance, consisting of 52 paintings, rests unvisited on the shelves of a library for generations. Rediscovered, it proves fascinating." - Kirkus ReviewsFeatured in thePublishers Weekly Fall 2017 Announcements"