Paintings about Painting

Nicholas Penny

  • The Art of Describing by Svetlana Alpers
    Murray, 273 pp, £25.00, May 1983, ISBN 0 7195 4063 1

‘The world of art is an enchanting deception,’ Hazlitt confided as he conducted his readers into the new picture gallery at Dulwich and straight to the ‘Cuyp next the door’. ‘You may lay your finger on the canvas; but miles of dewy vapour and sunshine are between you and the objects you survey.’ To think of doing this is to realise that more than ‘deception’ is involved. We know it is a flat canvas and yet are happy to half-forget, indeed find it hard not to half-forget, that it is not a real view.

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[*] The Dutch Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen by Christopher White. Cambridge, 344 pp., £70, 18 November 1982, 0 521 24283 5.