Book Review The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing

The Sight of Death is a book which was written by T.J. Clerk and published by the Yale University Press in 2008. In this book, Clerk uses his literary skills to demonstrate his wider knowledge and deeper understanding of art history. Although published at a much later date, the setting of the book is based on Clerk’s adventurous visit to the prestigious Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. Through his ‘six-day stint’ to the facility, he encounters two paintings produced by Poussin- Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake and Landscape with Calm. As the story unfolds, they become the major point of discussion since all the themes revolve around them.

I would like to point out that this is a well-written book. It demonstrates Clerk’s understanding of the role of critical thinking in critiquing and evaluating pieces of artwork. As he reports, his attraction to these paintings made him involuntarily visit the gallery each morning in order to study them. However, his experiences prove that everyone should have an open mind when judging artwork since they have lots of meanings to convey. This can be instrumental in giving them proper and appropriate interpretations. Just like him, everyone can be attracted to a work of art. However, in case this happens, there is a need not to rush in making judgments about it. Instead, enough should be allocated to enable it to be properly understood. This makes his book quite exhaustive and challenging to read.