Antoine's Alphabet by Jed Perl

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Synopsis

Antoine Watteau, one of the most mysterious painters who ever lived, is the inspiration for this delightful investigation of the tangled relationship between art and life. Weaving together historical fact and personal reflections, the influential art critic Jed Perl reconstructs the amazing story of this pioneering bohemian artist who, although he died in 1721, when he was only thirty-six, has influenced innumerable painters and writers in the centuries since—and whose work continues to deepen our understanding of the place that love, friendship, and pleasure have in our daily lives.

Perl creates an astonishing experience by gathering his reflections on this “master of silken surfaces and elusive emotions” in the form of an alphabet—a fairy tale for adults—giving us a new way to think about art. This brilliant collage of a book is a hunt for the treasure of Watteau’s life and vision that encompasses the glamour and intrigue of eighteenth-century Paris, the riotous history of Harlequin and Pierrot, and the work of such modern giants as Cézanne, Picasso, and Samuel Beckett.

By turns somber and beguiling, analytical and impressionistic, Antoine’s Alphabet reaffirms the contemporary relevance of the greatest of all painters of young love and imperishable dreams. It is a book to savor, to share, to return to again and again.
 

About Jed Perl

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Jed Perl was born in New York and studied art history and painting at Columbia University. Since 1994 he has been the art critic at The New Republic. His books include Paris Without End, Eyewitness, and New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century. He lives in Manhattan.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published September 9, 2008 by Vintage. 224 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Antoine's Alphabet

The New York Times

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When asked to name his favorite artist, Perl, the longtime art critic for The New Republic, always names Watteau “without a moment’s hesitation.” “Antoine’s Alphabet,” his slender new book, is a love letter to art and tradition in which he counts all the ways Watteau’s themes of love, daydreaming...

Nov 07 2008 | Read Full Review of Antoine's Alphabet

Publishers Weekly

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The 18th-century rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau is art critic Perl's favorite painter, one who transforms “powerful feelings—of love, friendship, lust, avidity, curiosity—into delectable artistic play” and “poetic pattern.” Perl's exquisitely composed study is organized alphabetically;

Jun 30 2008 | Read Full Review of Antoine's Alphabet

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