Looking at Pictures
"Looking at Pictures presents a little-known facet of the work of Robert Walser (1878-1956): his writings on art. As a young writer producing prose for publication in journals and newspapers, Robert Walser frequently devoted his attention to works of visual art. Sometimes these were works by his brother, Karl Walser, a celebrated stage set designer and painter, sometimes works by those in his brother's circle but often the work of old masters who Walser greatly admired. The pieces in this collection include some of his earliest prose as well as work from the final years of his career. Some of them are fluid meditations on art that touch only tangentially on the paintings that are their ostensible subjects. Others are meticulous descriptions of works down to their most minute details. Walser's way of seeing is eminently his own. Something special happens when he is contemplating a work of art. "A camera," the photographer Dorothea Lange once said, "is a tool for learning how to see without a camera." We can say something silmilar about Walser's writings on art. In these stories and essays, art is a tool for learning how to see without art."