Great paintings cannot be fully understood in a single encounter; there is always more to be derived from them. Art lovers may revisit and reconsider the masterpieces throughout their lives, but a deeper understanding can only be gained by analyzing the painting in detail, be it the placement of the subject, the lighting, the style of brushstrokes, or the themes.
Art in Detail examines one hundred iconic paintings from the Western canon and spotlights the finer points a quick glance will almost certainly fail to reveal. These include subtle internal details, such as hidden symbols and artistic tricks employed by the painter to achieve particular effects. In addition, Susie Hodge writes intelligently about external influences on the artist—everything from the socioeconomic context in which he or she flourished, to smaller local difficulties, such as the level of air pollution at the time the painting was created. And she treats each of her subjects not only, to quote the English poet Matthew Arnold, “as in itself it really is,” but also as part of a tradition that links the oldest painting to the most recent, as artists pass a metaphorical baton down through the ages.
Susie Hodge is an art historian, author, artist, and journalist with more than one hundred books to her name. She has an MA in the history of art from Birkbeck, University of London, and is a fellow of the RSA. She has twice been named the No. 1 art writer by the Independent.