"But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light." -- Ephesians 5:13 (NKJV)
The Age of Insight is a hard book to categorize. Professor Kandel's stated purpose is to demonstrate how a knowledgeable scientist can write clearly about science so that the interconnections between art and science can be exposed to those who know only about the art. As such, this book is more about informing those interested in the humanities than those whose interest is in science. As a necessary part of his method, there's a circumscription around a narrow set of artists and literary figures rather than an attempt to make a universal statement. To have attempted otherwise would have made a hefty book into a multi-volume tome that few would read.
As someone who reads a lot of art history, history of science, and current research on mental processes, I was impressed by the conception of the book and how deftly it was carried out in ways that deepened my appreciation for subjects I have long been familiar with. I was grateful for these new perspectives. I found the book to be enjoyable for the most part. If I got to a part that was too elementary for what I wanted to absorb, I just skipped quickly through until I got to weightier material. I didn't have to do that very often.
This book would be a wonderful gift to a budding artist or writer . . . or to an art historian in training. I'm sure that many wonderful shows could be mounted that would take advantage of the information here in ways that would delight museum and gallery goers.
Although the book will seem flawed to some, I think it succeeds in its purpose of proposing a new way to write about art and science. I'm sure that future books that attempt to do the same will benefit from having observed how this one turned out.
I particularly found the repeated examination of certain art works from different perspectives to be revealing. I think you will, too.
A few times in my younger days I had the opportunity to speak to people who were alive in Vienna during the heady days of the salons that Professor Kandel describes here. Their descriptions carried to me a similar fascination with how the leading thinkers influenced one another there and then. I was pleased to be able to expand my understanding of that unique society in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
I am not much of a fan of Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele. I was pleased to learn more reasons to appreciate their work. I must admit that if the subjects had been tied to artists I like better I would have enjoyed the book more . . . but don't let that stop you. This is an important book for you to read!
Bravo, Professor Kandel!