In this classic text, James Elkins communicates the experience of painting beyond the traditional vocabulary of art history. Alchemy provides a strange language to explore what it is a painter really does in the studio—the smells, the mess, the struggle to control the uncontrollable, the special knowledge only painters hold of how colors will mix, and how they will look. Written from the perspective of a painter-turned-art historian, this anniversary edition includes a new introduction and preface by Elkins in which he further reflects on the experience of painting and its role in the study of art today.

chapter |8 pages


chapter 1|31 pages

A short course in forgetting chemistry

chapter 2|28 pages

How to count in oil and stone

chapter 3|28 pages

The mouldy materia prima

chapter 4|21 pages

How do substances occupy the mind?

chapter 6|21 pages

The studio as a kind of psychosis

chapter 7|13 pages


chapter 9|9 pages

Last words