Ear­li­er this week, Alle­gra Good­man wrote about being a world artist and writ­ing Jew­ish” fic­tion. She has been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

Some peo­ple do their best think­ing in the show­er. I do some of my best think­ing in muse­ums. I feel at peace sur­round­ed by paint­ings. In libraries or book stores I can’t help but read like a writer. I can’t pre­vent the what ifs and the oh but I’d do that dif­fer­ent­ly response. In a muse­um I’m an enthu­si­ast. Since I’m not a visu­al artist, I’m more eas­i­ly dazzled.

Last year I vis­it­ed Boston’s Muse­um of Fine Arts with two friends, a painter and an art his­to­ri­an. (It sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? A rab­bi, a priest and a min­is­ter walk into a bar…) The three of us had a live­ly dis­cus­sion of the mer­its of var­i­ous paint­ings in the Tit­ian, Veronese and Tin­toret­to exhibition.

Look at that brush­work,” said the painter as we gazed at one portrait.

But there are issues with the larg­er com­po­si­tion,” said the art historian.

I star­tled them with my own cri­te­ri­on for a good por­trait. It works if the eyes fol­low you as you cross the room.”

Wan­der­ing through gal­leries takes me away from the page and into a world of col­or. I like to think about the prob­lems and pos­si­bil­i­ties of visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion: the way Van Gogh uses the col­or green. The way Degas reveals the weight and clum­si­ness of bal­let dancers even as they aspire to grace. The way Auer­bach builds up lay­ers of paint on his can­vas­es so that his stud­ies become palimpses­ts and also exca­va­tions. When I look at paint­ings I think about the way artists cap­ture the world and how they devel­op char­ac­ter. I also think about econ­o­my in art. Writ­ers and painters have this in com­mon: the right detail can tell a whole sto­ry. Think of the eyes in Rembrandt’s self por­traits: insou­ciant in the ear­ly paint­ings and then so dark, weary and know­ing lat­er on. Con­sid­er Ralph’s dying words to Isabel in Por­trait of a LadyVelasquez’s Venus and the turn of her neck. William Car­los Williams’ cel­e­bra­tion of small­ness and speci­fici­ty: so much depends / upon / a red wheel /​barrow.” God is in the details, and the artist’s hand in every line.

Alle­gra Goodman’s new nov­el, The Cook­book Col­lec­tor, is avail­able for pre-order. Find her on Face­book and her web­site.