By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

CRITIC'S CHOICE

REVIEW

A few years ago, T J Clark wrote a profound study of Modernism in the visual arts entitled Farewell to an Idea (AJ 16.09.99). Now Clark has stepped back three centuries to focus on Nicholas Poussin, whose paintings frequently evoke the architecture of Rome - the city where he spent half his life. Clark's new book, The Sight of Death (Yale University Press, £20), takes its title from a Poussin in London's National Gallery, Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake; one protagonist in the painting is the figure who has chanced on the corpse.

For some months in 2000, Snake was on loan to the Getty in Los Angeles, where it hung in the same room as another Poussin, Landscape with a Calm, which is pictured above. Clark was researching there at the time, and found himself returning day after day to these two paintings and recording his responses. His daily jottings grew into this book, intended as an antidote to a culture in which images thrive but are instantly consumed and forgotten.

It's almost a detective story as Clark pieces together the evidence derived from repeated looking, and the layout of the book - integrating many details of the paintings at just the right points in the text - lets you follow his eyes and thoughts with ease. Alert to the incidentals of museum-going - conditions of light in which a feature suddenly emerges when it was previously subdued - Clark's account is proof that some works really do deserve this kind of scrutiny, and that close attention to things is an adventure.

Landscape with a Calm used to be at Sudeley Castle, near Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, before the Getty acquired it in 1997. Until 31 October, Sudeley's grounds host an outdoor art show, Reconstruction, with an international cast list, including Gabriel Orozco, Anselm Kiefer and Cy Twombly ( www. sudeleycastle. co. uk). Fortunately the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool hasn't sold off its Poussin, The Ashes of Phocion Collected by his Widow, which has one of his most fully realised and harmonious cityscapes. But at Tate Liverpool it's back to the last days of Modernism, with a rare exhibition in this country of Kenneth Noland's abstract paintings.

It continues until 28 August ( www. tate. org. uk).

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters