Jonathan Miller has spent most of his prolific and distinguished career bringing the arts and science together to offer a richer and more complex understanding of the ways in which we come to "see" the world around us, and how art itself plays games with our perception of reality. On Reflection continues this preoccupation, and is an extraordinary exposition of how we see, and what we think we see, through an exploration of that most enigmatic of visual puzzles, the reflection.
As Miller points out, the artistic representation of reflection is based on a conundrum that has puzzled and challenged artists for centuries: how to represent the play of light which creates the effect of a reflection upon a flat surface using opaque material such as ink and paint. This problem is particularly acute in Miller's most sustained example--the mirror. When we look into a mirror, we do not "see" the surface, we only see our reflection. But in a painting our eye is drawn to the marked surface of the canvas, which creates the illusion of a reflection. Through a dazzling investigation of artists as diverse as Van Eyck, Durer, Velazquez, Ingres, Helen Chadwick and Robert Mapplethorpe, Miller explores the tricks and games by which painting and more recently photography create this illusion of reflection.
Drawing on studies of cognitive perception, On Reflection explains how we come to understand the difference between a reflection and "the real thing", and how vital reflections are in defining our own sense of identity. Miller's fascination with and enthusiasm for his subject come across in bravura and original reassessments of the paintings he considers, and in the tricks that these paintings often play on the viewer. Lavishly and imaginatively illustrated, with wonderful inset captions which take the paintings apart in support of Miller's argument, this is one of the most enjoyable, accessible, and original books on art to have appeared in recent years. Essential for both connoisseurs and anyone interested in art history. --Jerry Brotton [via]