History of Art: The Western Tradition

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9780130610669: History of Art: The Western Tradition

For forty years, this widely acclaimed classic has remained unsurpassed as an introduction to art in the Western world, boasting the matchless credibility of the Janson name. This newest update features a more contemporary, more colorful design and vast array of extraordinarily produced illustrations that have become the Janson hallmark.

A narrative voice makes this book a truly enjoyable read, and carefully reviewed and revised updates to this edition offer the utmost clarity in contributions based on recent scholarship. Extensive captions for the book’s incredible art program offer profound insight through the eyes of twentieth-century art historians speaking about specific pieces of art featured throughout.

Significantly changed in this edition is the chapter on “The Late Renaissance,” in which Janson offers a new perspective on the subject, tracing in detail the religious art tied to the Catholic Reform movement, whose early history is little known to many readers of art history. Janson has also rearranged early Renaissance art according to genres instead of time sequence, and he has followed the reinterpretation of Etruscan art begun in recent years by German and English art historians.

With a truly humanist approach, this book gives written and visual meaning to the captivating story of what artists have tried to express—and why—for more than 30,000 years.

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Product Description:

With more than four million copies in print in 14 languages, History of Art has long been considered the indispensable art reference. Now, this classic survey of Western art returns in a thoroughly updated and expanded Sixth Edition with 150 new illustrations, completely redrawn maps, and updated bibliography and website directory. The much-anticipated new edition brings together the impeccable reproduction quality and scholarship of its predecessors with enhanced coverage of many periods and newly illustrated sidebars devoted to music, theater, and historical background.The Sixth Edition, reflecting the latest scholarship, makes History of Art's standing as the authority on Western art and artists more solid than ever.

Review:

Back in the early 1970s, "Janson"--as History of Art is universally known--was a hefty but manageable 616 pages, illustrated mostly with black-and-white photographs. It also famously contained not a single work by a female artist and devoted a scant eight pages to non-Western art. Five editions and three decades later, the art history student's Stone Age-to-20th-century Bible has swelled into a massive, slipcased, 1,000-page tome studded with 865 color reproductions and subheadings that corral individual artists whose achievements used to flow together like some mighty art historical river.

Women artists (from 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi to contemporary photographer Cindy Sherman) now make the cut, and the focus is purely Western, extended to include 20th-century photography and postmodernism (with a scant two pages on postmodern theory). The timeline charting landmarks in art alongside key events in history, science, and the arts has been handsomely redesigned. Each historical period now has its own world map and selection of excerpts from primary sources (including unusual ones, like a fellow monk's account of painter Hugo van der Goes's mental troubles).

With each edition, portions of the text have been altered to reflect shifting scholarly interpretations. (As the late H.W. Janson wryly noted in the original, 1962 preface, "There are no 'plain facts' in the history of art.") H.W.'s son Anthony writes in his preface to the sixth edition that changes have been made to sections on ancient art; French romantic, realist, and impressionist painting; and the history of Western architecture. Happily unchanged--no dumbing-down here--is the clarity and intelligence of the writing. All in all, History of Art remains an invaluable reference for anyone who studies or writes about the subject. But even if no further bloat is contemplated, the time has come to rename the worthy Janson History of Western Art, and to divide it into two volumes, if only to protect the health and backpacks of art historians-to-be. --Cathy Curtis

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