by Marilyn Stokstad
Publisher:Harry N Abrams
This attractively packaged two-volume set attempts an almost impossible task: to present the art of the entire world, from vibrant cave paintings dating back 30,000 years to the creative trends of the late 20th century. Though the arts of Europe are the most thoroughly analyzed, respected scholars in several specialized fields cover other cultures with cogent essays. A more unusual feature is the space devoted to art created by women, such as the late-Renaissance painters Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana--the latter was invited in 1560 to be an official painter at the Spanish court. Relationships between the art of different cultures are emphasized and, while each section can stand alone, each is shown to fit meaningfully into the overall development of the world's artistic heritage. Beautiful images grace the production's 1,200 pages, not only well-known icons but a wealth of lesser-known gems are here, carefully chosen to demonstrate the points made in the text. There are many delightful surprises among the illustrations, many of which are in color, printed to high quality standards in Japan. For instance, line drawings explain technical details, from "Lost-wax Bronze-casting" to "Elements of the Skyscraper." A vast amount of information is presented, but it is very well organized and easy to access, and an extensive glossary answers many questions. Marilyn Stokstad's Art History is a true tour de force, and its light and humanistic approach is a refreshing change from previous encyclopedic art-historical studies. --John Stevenson
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