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Dimensions:
224 × 146 × 22 mm
232 pages
Format:
Hardback
ISBN:
9781789142976
Illustrations:
60 illustrations, 40 in colour
Published:
18 Jan 2021
Series:
Renaissance Lives

Giorgione’s Ambiguity Tom Nichols

The Venetian painter known as Giorgione or ‘big George’ died at a young age in the dreadful plague of 1510, possibly having painted fewer than 25 works. But many of these are among the most mysterious and alluring in the history of art. Paintings such as the Three Philosophers and The Tempest remain compellingly elusive, seeming to deny the viewer the possibility of interpreting their meaning. Tom Nichols argues that this visual elusiveness was essential to Giorgione’s sensual approach, and that ambiguity is their defining quality. Through detailed discussions of all Giorgione’s works, Nichols shows that by abandoning the more intellectual tendencies of much Renaissance art, Giorgione made the world and its meanings appear always more inscrutable.

‘Nichols contends that everything about Giorgione’s paintings – from their hazy brushstrokes and unconventional colors to their peculiar compositions and enigmatic figures – s meant to puzzle us, and thereby draw us in . . . Although Giorgione’s biography and artwork are ambiguous, Nichols’s text is not. His survey of Giorgione’s portraits, landscapes, and nudes is evenly paced, meticulously researched, and persuasively argued. The author presents a lucid examination of what we do and do not know about Giorgione that ultimately opens the viewer to a richer engagement with the artwork. The book would appeal to scholars, artists, history buffs, and even Vasari himself.’ — Hyperallergic

‘Systematic use of sfumato can have the effect of shrouding a painting in visual mystery, allowing space for a kind of reflection that’s unencumbered by the more routine task of identifying historical narrative, political figure, or religious doctrine. No painter used sfumato to this end more thrillingly than Giorgione, of the Venetian School, who died in his thirties in 1510, and to whom only a handful of existing works can be firmly attributed. Nichols’s book on Giorgione’s Ambiguity traces the life and work of this wonderfully enigmatic painter.’ — The New Criterion

‘"Witholding from clear or closely defined meanings in painting allowed Giorgione to explore uncharted sensual territories, and to develop ever more intimate psychological relationships between the work and its spectator," writes Tom Nicholls in his brilliant biography and appraisal, Giorgione’s Ambiguity . . . a handsome production, with glossed pages highlighting the work to optimum effect . . . [a] two hugely appealing book which should be investigated by all lovers of Renaissance men and Renaissance artists.’ — Paddy Kehoe, RTE Culture

‘Tom Nichols’s book serves as an excellent, cerebral, and insightful essay on one of the most influential and enigmatic of Renaissance painters. Like one of Giorgione’s own pictures, Nichols’s analysis is lyrical, and thought-provoking; constantly drawn to the profound implications of its subject, yet never less than concise and accessible. The book is particularly welcome and timely . . . Nichols is able to reserve his considerable intellectual energy for a revitalising and superbly informed discussion of the essence of Giorgione – both in terms of the elusive, enfolded meanings of his art, and in providing the reader with a navigable, clear-headed guide to a corpus of key works.’ — Philip Cottrell, Assistant Professor in Art History, University College Dublin


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Tom Nichols is Reader in History of Art at the University of Glasgow. His previous books for Reaktion include Tintoretto: Tradition and Identity (2015) and Titian and the End of the Venetian Renaissance (2013).

Introduction
1 Who Was Giorgione?
2 Artistic Context and Early Religious Paintings
3 Portraits and Portrait-types
4 Landscape and Figure
5 Nudes
Conclusion

References
Select Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements
Index