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The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of…
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The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa

by Michael Kimmelman

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This is not an easy book to classify. In his introduction the author perhaps puts it best, "This book is meant as a kind of Wunderkammer, a cabinet of wonders about art, which, like the heart, can sometimes defy logic..." However you may need to read the book to learn just what a Wunderkammer is. At a more superficial level I might say that this book poses the eternal question, "What is art?" and reflects upon the answers to that question.

I was given this book as a present by a colleague and I thank him heartily for his thoughtful choice. Kimmelman has a very distinctive and agreable literary voice. His seemingly artless musings and oblique insights are a delight to read - his thoughts are deep and stimulating but are expressed in a conversational and confiding way. He is erudite but wears his scholarship lightly - there is something of a zen-like quality to this book with its numerous unexpected but illuminating juxtapositions of odd facts and reflections.

I am not someone who is a natural reader of art critics - I prefer to make my own mind up about art and usually find the evaluations of art critics and historians more irritating than informing. However, I do recommend this book - and I am moved to read more of Kimmelman's writings. ( )
1 vote appaloosaman | Dec 27, 2008 |
The book is a series of essays each one taking a slightly different perspective on life as art. Although the material is substantive it reads smoothly and with a gentle ease often lost in this type of philosophical art critic. The content was entertaining and could lead to an extended lunch in order to complete the last few pages of a chapter. But in the end the overall book was not memorable. I can recall to you high level themes; art of collecting, simple pleasures or the art of making a world, but int he end the imprint this book made on me was shallow. Is was an entertaining but not a life changing read. http://nicolevlozano.blogspot.com/2008/01/recent-read.html ( )
1 vote nicolevl | Apr 12, 2008 |
M. Kimmelman is a gifted writer with soft, yet determined voice that succinctly delivers his thoughts on the delicacy of art. ( )
  juliannekim | Feb 8, 2007 |
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Book description
In his widely acclaimed national bestseller The Accidental Masterpiece, Michael Kimmelman climbs mountains, treks into the desert, and even nearly drowns as he pursues art’s truths. He explains that great artists like Bonnard and Chardin—but also obscure obsessives, paint-by-number enthusiasts, amateur shutterbugs, and collectors of strange odds and ends— can show us how creating, collecting, and even just appreciating art can make living a daily masterpiece.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143037331, Paperback)

Michael Kimmelman, the prominent New York Times writer and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, is known as a deep and graceful writer across the disciplines of art and music and also as a pianist who understands something about the artist's sensibility from the inside. Readers have come to expect him not only to fill in their knowledge about art but also to inspire them to think about connections between art and the larger world - which is to say, to think more like an artist. Kimmelman's many years of contemplating and writing about art have brought him to this wise, wide-ranging, and long-awaited book.

It explores art as life's great passion, revealing what we can learn of life through pictures and sculptures and the people who make them. It assures us that art - points of contact with the exceptional that are linked straight to the heart - can be found almost anywhere and everywhere if only our eyes are opened enough to recognize it. Kimmelman regards art, like all serious human endeavors, as a passage through which a larger view of life may come more clearly into focus. His book is a kind of adventure or journey.

It carries the message that many of us may not yet have learned how to recognize the art in our own lives. To do so is something of an art itself. A few of the characters Kimmelman describes, like Bonnard and Chardin, are great artists. But others are explorers and obscure obsessives, paint-by-numbers enthusiasts, amateur shutterbugs, and collectors of strange odds and ends. Yet others, like Charlotte Solomon, a girl whom no one considered much of an artist but who secretly created a masterpiece about the world before her death in Auschwitz, have reserved spots for themselves in history, or not, with a single work that encapsulates a whole life.

Kimmelman reminds us of the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of wonders - the rage in seventeenth-century Europe and a metaphor for the art of life. Each drawer of the cabinet promises something curious and exotic, instructive and beautiful, the cabinet being a kind of ideal, self-contained universe that makes order out of the chaos of the world. The Accidental Masterpiece is a kind of literary Wunderkammer, filled with lively surprises and philosophical musings. It will inspire readers to imagine their own personal cabinet of wonders.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:15 -0400)

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"The Accidental Masterpiece encourages us to live life with eyes wide open, because the drive to live life more alertly is instinctive, and, whether you are an artist by trade or by desire, the art of seeing well is one that can be learned." "To illustrate art's power to transform lives, Kimmelman describes a handful of people who regard art as life's great passion. A. few of the characters he portrays, like Bonnard and Chardin, are great artists. But others are explorers and obscure obsessives, paint-by-numbers enthusiasts, amateur shutterbugs, and collectors of strange odds and ends. Yet others, like Charlotte Salomon, a girl whom no one considered much of an artist until she secretly created a masterpiece before her death in Auschwitz, have reserved spots for themselves in history with a single work that encapsulates a whole life. What connects them to each other is their ability to find enlightenment and passion through the awareness their art provides."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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