Publisher description for What painting is : how to think about oil painting, using the language of alchemy / James Elkins.

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What is painting really? Daubs of sticky oils and crushed rock, blobs that form and reform, colors that look one way on a palette, another way on canvas, a different way still in relation to other bits of color beside them. Books on painting usually talk about Art, or about painters. But in this compelling and original work, art historian James Elkins turns to alchemy, for like the alchemist, the painter seeks to transform and be transformed by the medium.

In What Painting Is, James Elkins communicates the experience of painting beyond the traditional vocabulary of art history. Alchemy provides a magical language to explore what it is a painter really does in her or his studio--the smells, the mess, the struggle to control the uncontrollable, the special knowledge only painters hold of how colors will mix, and how they will look. Written from the perspective of a painter-turned-art historian, What Painting Is is like nothing you have ever read about art. Also includes a 4-page color insert.

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