Learning to Look at Paintings

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Learning to Look at Paintings is an accessible guide to the study and appraisal of paintings, drawings and prints. Mary Acton shows how you can develop visual, analytical and historical skills in learning to look at and understand an image by analysing how it works, what its pictorial elements are and how they relate to each other.
This fully revised and updated new edition is illustrated with over 100 images by a wide range of Western European and American artists, ranging from Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Botticelli to Picasso, Matisse and Rothko, and now includes modern and contemporary artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Anselm Kiefer, Tacita Dean and Marlene Dumas. In addition, Mary Acton presents new examples highlighting the survival and revival of painting in recent years.
A new introduction situates the book in the wider context of recent changes in the approach to Art History. A glossary of critical and technical terms used in the language of Art History is also included, with an updated but still selective reading list.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (October 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415435188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415435185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

Customer Reviews


 on January 20, 2013
By Amazon Customer
Excellent discussions for understanding techniques used by artists in their paintings. Anyone interested in learning what the masters were trying to accomplish through the use of paint should find this book interesting.

Good investment

 on October 7, 2013
Great book to have in any artists library. Lot’s of great information. Something you go back to again and again. Very good book.

Excellent art appreciation resource

One person found this helpful.
 on January 26, 2014
By Carrie Mikkelborg
I’m training to be a docent in an art museum. This was recommended reading and I’m really glad to have purchased it because it gives me standard tools to use when looking at any piece of art.

Would Recommend

 on July 31, 2014
By Sedulous
Don’t remember it too well but l learned from it.

Fine introduction

39 people found this helpful.
 on November 9, 1997
Composition, space, form, tone, color, subject-matter, and other pictorial elements of the plastic arts are considered and their interrelationships explained in this handy introduction, with over ninety well-chosen illustrations, some in color.


25 people found this helpful.
 on August 23, 2001
By Ramona J. Brenneman
I enjoyed this book on the principles and elements of design. I think she selected exemplary pictures to illustrate her point. I especially enjoyed the chapter on “subject matter”. The only drawback of this book was having to flip back and forth from the reading to the painting. Also, she talked about some of the paintings color combinations that were printed in black and white. In the paperback version some of the details of the paintings were lost because they were reproduced on a small scale. Overall, though I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about design elements.

Five Stars

 on February 21, 2016
By Gintaras
I know how to look at paintings better. writer Gintaras Kavarskas

Easy to read

One person found this helpful.
 on July 8, 2007
By Danielle Garland
This book is written in a plain, clear style—it is a good reference book to look up anything about art. The chapters are short.

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