Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Book Review: Art - the definitive visual guide

Title: Art: The Definitive Visual Guide
Author: by Andrew Graham-Dixon (Author, Editor) (Dorling Kindersley 1 October 2008)
Technical data: Hardback, 252 x 301mm, 62 pages ) ISBN-10: 1405322438 ISBN-13: 978-1405322430
Robust production values indicate this is a book which is not about to fall apart - which is very reassuring given the number of pages!
Synopsis: Covers 700 artists in a 540 page chronological overview of the history of art relating to different cultures and the main periods of art history from prehistory to the present day.

According to the author/editor, the purpose of this book is as straightforward as its "does-what-it-says-on-the-tin" title. Its aim is to open, to the general reader, a thousand doors into a thousand different experiences of art - and by doing so, to make the wold of the museum and art gallery, church and cloister, temple and mosque, both more enjoyable and more accessible.
Who should buy this?: People who want to know more about the history and development of art
Who should not buy this? Those bored by art history or any art from unfamiliar lands and cultures
  • includes an introduction about how to look at art
  • a book which is packed full of high quality reproductions of 2,500+ paintings and sculptures
  • artists grouped into different genres or movements enabling a better understanding of the wider context
  • individual and important paintings examined in depth
  • provides an overview and timeline of the lives of notable artists
  • summary reviews of how different artists have tackled specific genres of painting
Think Again?
  • some major gaps in the art covered - eg very little mention of Russian artists
  • lacks a section on 'how to look' at contemporary art
  • lacks a decent index of all the artists covered by the book - by section
  • would benefit from an overview of the best museums to see the art highlighted in the book
Summary: This is essentially a visual guide. The text is informative and succinct but does not provide an in-depth discussion of art in different periods.

In 600+ pages, this book succeeds in giving a very good flavour of each art movement, art period, art culture and an awful lot of artists.

It's a very good book for introducing people to art across the ages and different cultures. A primer for those wanting to learn more about the history of art and suitable for all students - young and old.

Andrew Graham Dixon suggests it can be used as a work of reference, a bluffer's crib or a guide and companion on a path to exploring art.

You can read my detailed review Book Review: Art - the definitive visual guide which was first published on Making A Mark

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