Synopses & Reviews
In her groundbreaking Sexual Personae
, Camille Paglia turned her incisive eye on beauty and decadence in literature, art, and popular culture. Now, America's premier intellectual provocateur returns to the subject that brought her fame, tackling the great themes of Western art in an enthralling tour through more than two dozen seminal images, some famous and others obscure or unknown. With energy, erudition, and wit, Paglia leads us chronologically through the paintings, sculptures, architectural styles, performance pieces, and digital art that have defined and transformed our visual world. She combines close analysis with background that situates each artist and image within its historical context — from an Egyptian tomb to Titian's Venus With a Mirror
; from an elegant French Rococo interior to Jackson Pollock's abstract Green Silver
; from Renee Cox's daring performance piece Chillin' with Liberty
to Eleanor Antin's amusing conceptual art project 100 Boots
In a stunning ending, Paglia declares that the avant-garde tradition is dead and that director George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, is the world's greatest living artist. Brilliantly concise and lucidly designed for general readers and students, this continually surprising book deciphers the messages of the cultural code over the past 3000 years, and once again confirms Camille Paglia's inimitable talent for overturning the received wisdom of her predecessors. Beautifully written, passionately argued, and filled with Paglia's trademark audacity, Glittering Images is destined to change the way we think about our visual environment in this high-tech age.
"We are living in an age of visual 'vertigo' and 'must relearn how to see,' argues academic and critic Paglia (Sexual Personae) in this highly reflective and imaginative history of images in Western art. Paglia begins with the Luxor paintings of Queen Nefertiti's journey to the afterlife and ends with Revenge of the Sith by filmmaker George Lucas, who she argues is the greatest contemporary master of synthesizing art and technology. Intentionally organized as a devotional where the reader observes and contemplates one image at a time, Paglia traces the major periods of Western art image by image, so that each brief chapter could be a stand-alone essay. While some of Paglia's choices are somewhat predictable (Bernini's Chair of Saint Peter as an example of the baroque; David's Death of Marat for neo-classicism; Jackson Pollock's Green Silver as an example of abstract expressionism) her image choices for romanticism (The Sea of Ice by Caspar David Friedrich) and surrealism (The Portrait by Rene Magritte) are less so. Paglia writes with energetic lucidity, and her entries on the Laocoön and Donatello's Mary Magdalene are standouts in this absorbing volume. Both a valuable cultural critique and an elucidating history, Paglia's latest would suit the general reader, as well as those looking for an alternative approach to contemporary ways of seeing. Illus. Agent: Tina Bennett, Janklow & Nesbit." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The ever-provocative Paglia returns with a survey of Western art, captured in 24 essays that move from Egyptian tombs to Titian's Venus with a Mirror to Eleanor Antin's conceptual art project 100 Boots. The provocative part? In the end, she proclaims that the avant-garde is dead and that George Lucas is our greatest living artist. This will get the smart folks talking." Library Journal
"Critic/provocateur Paglia applies to the visual arts the same close scrutiny she lavished on poetry in Break, Blow, Burn (2005)....An intelligently detailed examination of 29 works of art, ranging from a tomb painting of Egyptian Queen Nefertari to George Lucas' film Revenge of the Sith....The author cogently locates individual pieces within a cultural continuum and eloquently spotlights the artistic qualities that make them unique....Paglia gives a vivid sense of the sweep and scope of art history. The author loves pop art (Warhol's Marilyn Diptych), but sections on Eleanor Antin's 100 Boots and Walter De Maria's Lightning Field display a surprising fondness for conceptualism and minimalism as well. African-American artists get their due in essays on John Wesley Hardrick's sensitive portrait, Xenia Goodloe, and Renee Cox's witty Chillin' with Liberty....Paglia is a wonderful popularizer of art history and art appreciation." Kirkus Reviews
"Paglia, an ardent and often controversial defender of the arts and creative freedom, argued for the value of poetry in Break, Blow, Burn (2005). She now presents an equally commanding case for reclaiming the visual arts as a necessary and nurturing cultural force in a time of alarmingly diminished support for arts education. Given our 'screen' habit, we are awash in a 'sea of images,' mostly commercial in origin, that threatens to drown our ability to focus and think critically. The best way to regain our visual acuity, Paglia believes, is to focus on paintings, sculpture, and the decorative arts within art's rich continuum. So this interdisciplinary firebrand and die-hard populist showcases 29 outstanding works, each representative of a certain style or period, beginning with a tomb painting of Queen Nefertari and working up to Andy Warhol's portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Paglia's succinct, lively, and illuminating essays combine aesthetics and social considerations ad she recalibrates our perception of, say, Renaissance artist Donatello's 'harsh and imposing' depiction of Mary Magdalene, or Jamaican performance artist Renee Cox's Chillin' with Liberty. The book's climax is Paglia's bound-to-be-inflammatory assertion that filmmaker George Lucas is 'the world's greatest artist.' Paglia's bold and rigorous, handsomely illustrated and welcoming art iconography will accomplish her mission to provoke, enlighten, and inspire." Booklist, starred review
"The book's subtitle — ‘A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars’ — highlights Ms. Paglia's impressive range and famously eclectic tastes....Ms. Paglia chooses well, from works both celebrated and obscure. She is especially good at the difficult trick of providing context for the newcomer to art history without being tedious for a more experienced reader. She is no dreary docent....She is also adept at helping readers to see the radical original impulse in now familiar art forms." The Wall Street Journal
"A magisterial, poetically composed, and masterly study of 29 great works of Western art....Paglia writes rhapsodically of art's power...[she is] one of the most erudite public intellectuals in America." The Philadelphia Inquirer
From the best-selling author of Sexual Personae
and Break, Blow, Burn
and one of our most acclaimed cultural critics, here is an enthralling journey through Western art’s defining moments, from the ancient Egyptian tomb of Queen Nefertari to George Lucas’s volcano planet duel in Revenge of the Sith.
America’s premier intellectual provocateur returns to the subject that brought her fame, the great themes of Western art. Passionately argued, brilliantly written, and filled with Paglia’s trademark audacity, Glittering Images takes us on a tour through more than two dozen seminal images, some famous and some obscure or unknown — paintings, sculptures, architectural styles, performance pieces, and digital art that have defined and transformed our visual world. She combines close analysis with background information that situates each artist and image within its historical context — from the stone idols of the Cyclades to an elegant French rococo interior to Jackson Pollock’s abstract Green Silver to Renée Cox’s daring performance piece Chillin’ with Liberty. And in a stunning conclusion, she declares that the avant-garde tradition is dead and that digital pioneer George Lucas is the world’s greatest living artist. Written with energy, erudition, and wit, Glittering Images is destined to change the way we think about our high-tech visual environment.
About the Author
Camille Paglia is University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She is the author of Break, Blow, Burn; Sexual Personae; Sex, Art, and American Culture; and Vamps & Tramps. She has also written The Birds, a study of Alfred Hitchcock.
Table of Contents
1 Resurrection: Queen Nefertari
2 Mystic Vision: Idols of the Cyclades
3 The Race: Charioteer of Delphi
4 Roof of Air: Porch of the Maidens
5 God’s Snare: Laocoön
6 Sky of Gold: Saint John Chrysostom
7 Living Letters: The Book of Kells
8 Solitary Watcher: Donatello, Mary Magdalene
9 Island of Love: Titian, Venus with a Mirror
10 Lord of the Sea: Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of Andrea Doria as Neptune
11 Blaze of Glory: Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Chair of Saint Peter
12 Satin Knights: Anthony Van Dyck, Lord John Stuart and his Brother, Lord Bernard Stuart
13 Swirling Line: The French Rococo
14 Martyr of the Revolution: Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat
15 Arctic Ruin: Caspar David Friedrich, The Sea of Ice
16 City in Motion: Édouard Manet, At the Café
17 Melting Color: Claude Monet, Irises
18 Heaven and Hell: Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
19 Heart of Stone: George Grosz, Life Makes You Happy!
20 Dance of the Mind: Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of Doctor Boucard
21 Luncheon in the Twilight Zone: René Magritte, The Portrait
22 Romance of the Grid: Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow
23 Elegance at Ease: John Wesley Hardrick, Xenia Goodloe
24 Shooting Stars: Jackson Pollock, Green Silver
25 Sun and Rain: Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych
26 On the Road: Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots
27 Electric: Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field
28 Blue Dawn: Renée Cox, Chillin’ with Liberty
29 Red River: George Lucas, Revenge of the Sith