Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Book Review: The Art Atlas

Title: The Art Atlas
Author / (Publisher): John Onians (Laurence King)
Technical data: Publication Date: May 2008 352 pages; 300 illustrations and 300 maps in full color; CD-included ISBN-10: 1856695573 ISBN-13: 978-1856695572
Synopsis: The first work to treat the art of the whole world from prehistory to the present day through the extensive use of maps. It places an emphasis on art as a visual expression of the story of different cultures at different times. Covering painting, sculpture and architecture as well as other arts and artefacts, The Art Atlas provides an entirely new vision of the history of the world's art by showing how physical and political geography has shaped its developments.
Who should buy this?: Art Historians and teachers and students of art history. People (like me) who love art AND maps.
Who should not buy this? Those with no interest in art history or how art has developed over time and in different cultures. People who don't like maps and/or cannot read a map.
  • Maps showing how art flowed between towns, countries and cultures.
  • Expert comment from art historians, archeologists, anthropoligists and people expert in a particular region
  • Very well illustrated
  • provides an excellent context for studying different artists, different art movements and the art of different cultures and countries
  • A reference book forever!
  • Comes with a CD which includes a searchable form of the entire book
Think Again?
  • Not a book you are ever going to digest in a hurry!
Summary: This is a large tome for people who want to get to grips with a geographical and cultural overview of how art has developed across cultures, countries and over time.

What I like about the book is that it does try to embrace all of art. What makes it unsatisfactory is that in so doing it inevitably has to skim across the surface of some of the artists and aspects of art with which we might be more familiar. In doing this it made me realise just how much I didn't know! Which, as I indicated earlier, means I can see this book being around as a reference book for some years to come.

I recommend people read what interests them and then see where that takes them.

This is a summary of my comprehensive book review posted on Making A Mark earlier this year. See Book review: The Art Atlas for more information and detail about this book.

Here's a flavour of what my book review talks about
What I have how ever grasped is that this book appeals to the geographer in me (all those maps - heaven!) and that it tries to get to grips with explaining the flows between different parts of the world at different times in world history in visual terms. Thus it conceptualises art as a global phenomenon rather than something which is totally discrete and tidy (like "European Art") which is often the way art history can tend to be presented at times - even if this can be rather inaccurate.
Professor John Onians, BA, PhD, FSA. specialises in architecture, especially the architectural theory of the Italian Renaissance; painting, sculpture and architecture in Ancient Greece and Rome; material culture, metaphor and thought; perception and cognition, and the biological basis of art. His publications include Art and Thought in the Hellenistic Age (Thames & Hudson) and Bearers of Meaning. The Classical Orders in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Cambridge University Press, 1988), which was awarded the Sir Banister Fletcher Prize in 1989. He is also the founding editor, in 1978, of the prestigious journal Art History.

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