Keeping an Eye Open

‘Flaubert believed that it was impossible to explain one art form in terms of another, and that great paintings required no words of explanation.

'Braque thought the ideal state would be reached when we said nothing at all in front of a painting. But we are very far from reaching that state. We remain incorrigibly verbal creatures who love to explain things, to form opinions, to argue... It is a rare picture which stuns, or argues, us into silence. And if one does, it is only a short time before we want to explain and understand the very silence into which we have been plunged.’

Julian Barnes began writing about art with a chapter on Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa in his 1989 novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters. Since then he has written a series of remarkable essays, chiefly about French artists, which trace the story of how art made its way from Romanticism to Realism and into Modernism.

Julian Barnes's Keeping and Eye Open (Updated Edition) is published by Vintage. The collection includes seven new essays on art and artists. Fully illustrated in colour throughout, Keeping an Eye Open contains Barnes’ essays on Géricault, Delacroix, Courbet, Manet, Morisot, Fantin-Latour, Cézanne, Degas, Cassatt, Redon, Van Gogh, the legendary critic Huysmans, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton, Braque, Magritte, Oldenburg, Howard Hodgkin and Lucian Freud. It also offers new perspectives on the fruitful relationship between writers and artists, and on the rivalry among Russian collectors of French art in the late 19th century.



NOTE: When possible, editions are linked to entries in the online Julian Barnes Bibliography. These entries feature multiple images of the book and additional bibliographic details.
Keeping an Eye Open by Julian Barnes
English Editions

Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art. London: Jonathan Cape, 2015.

Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2015.

Keeping an Eye Open (Updated Edition). London: Vintage, 2020.


10 Mmay 2016 - "Julian Barnes: There’s No Right Response to a Painting" - David Balzer, Canadian Art


27 April 2015 - Book review: Keeping an Eye Open, Julian Barnes - Niall McMonagle, Independent (Ireland)

28 April 2015 - Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art by Julian Barnes, review: 'a little timid' - Keith Miller, Telegraph

10 May 2015 - Julian Barnes Looks at the Great Painters Afresh - Peter Conrad, The Guardian