The title of this book, The Many Ways of Seeing, succinctly expresses the author’s purpose and approach, which is to provide a variety of ways that readers can sharpen their “visual awareness.” Thus, the chapters are rather short and offer many different ways to cultivate and heighten visual acuity.
One approach that Moore uses is straightforward textual discussion and explanation. This technique is particularly well suited to conveying basic information about the visual arts. The chapter on the visual elements of line, color, and form and the chapter on the materials and techniques of artists are thorough and clear. Ample illustrations are provided so that each element, material, and technique can be viewed along with the textual discussion.
Similarly, several chapters focus on particular artworks in order to illustrate the special ways that artists present their ideas. The comparison between the landscapes by Van Gogh and Cézanne in chapter 3 shows how different artists approach the same basic subject and composition with strikingly different results. Chapter 5, on ways in which artists change their styles and present challenges to viewers, offers a brief history of the developments in Western art over the previous 150 years.
A second major technique that Moore utilizes is providing actual exercises for readers to follow. In chapter 4, she demonstrates how readers can study the composition of paintings by creating...
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Janet Moore’s method of teaching art arises out of her experiences as an artist, art teacher, and education curator in the Cleveland Museum of Art. In addition to The Many Ways of Seeing, she has written The Eastern Gate: An Invitation to the Arts of China and Japan (1979). Both books provide introductions to aspects of the visual arts for young people.
While The Many Ways of Seeing is intended to instill an appreciation of art in a juvenile audience, it is useful for anyone who is interested in learning about how to look at art. The book has been successful, and it was named a Newbery Honor Book by the American Library Association. Critics have praised the book for the clarity with which Moore presents her ideas and material. The Many Ways of Seeing has a sensitivity and simplicity, but it never talks down to the reader, whether juvenile or adult. The integration of the text and the illustrated artworks has also been cited as a strength of this book.
A number of books are currently available whose subject is art appreciation. Most, however, are intended as textbooks for courses at the college level or for adult readers who desire an introduction to the visual arts. The Many Ways of Seeing remains one of the few books whose primary audience is young people. Its combination of textual discussion and visual exercises is almost unique and well-suited to involve young people directly in the creative process of art.