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- author Jackie French

Thursday 26 September 2013

Review: The Illustrated Story of Art

The Illustrated Story of Art: The Great Art Movements and the Paintings that Inspired Them explores the history of art through its many styles, starting with ancient and medieval art, and moving through Renaissance, Baroque and Neo Classicism, to the nineteenth century and later. In more contemporary times, the modern age and its expressionism, abstract and pop art are covered.

Each period is broken down further. In looking at the Renaissance, for example, readers will learn about the birth of the movement, its “flowering”, and offshoots like the High Renaissance, and the Venetian and Northern Renaissance.

Whichever movement you choose to read about, it will begin with its context, setting the scene with a summary of the history of that period in time, and how it influenced the world of art. Then key events are listed, and artistic influences and turning points explained. A graphic timeline features example artworks of the period, with full colour images accompanied by short captions to outline their technique, importance, or provenance.

Each movement finishes with a featured “masterwork” which has a more comprehensive history and interpretation, plus a short biography of the artist. For the nineteenth century’s Impressionism, it’s Monet’s The Waterlily Pond Green Harmony, while in the Northern Renaissance it’s The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Multiple contributors bring their art expertise to the book which includes a two-page glossary, an index of artists, and a general index.

What I love most about The Illustrated Story of Art is the visual feast it provides, and how easy it is to dip in and out of. Alternatively, the sequential exploration of the art movements provides a valuable journey through time.

Also adding to the experience are quotes dotted throughout, like this one from Paul Gauguin which expresses some of the inspiration for his work:

“I love Brittany. I find the savage, the primitive there. When my clogs resound on the granite soil, I hear the muffled, dull, powerful tone that I’m after in painting.”

And this from German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, stressing the value he places on different forms of art:

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life.”

This is a big book, but it needs to be, as it wouldn’t be able to showcase art any other way. It’s full of images, facts and figures, and is an excellent resource for school assignments, but also for enjoyment by anyone, child or adult, wanting to learn the who, what and where of the different periods of art history. Definitely a title I want on my bookshelf.

Title: The Illustrated Story of Art: The Great Art Movements and the Paintings that Inspired Them
Author: Dorling Kindersley
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley, $49.99 RRP
Publication Date: 21 August 2013
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781409316084
For ages: 10+
Type: Non-fiction