The Bulfinch Guide to Art History: A Comprehensive Survey and Dictionary of Western Art and Architecture

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9780821221372: The Bulfinch Guide to Art History: A Comprehensive Survey and Dictionary of Western Art and Architecture
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Entries cover artists, architects, patrons, art historians, and critics; art and architecture terms; subjects and symbols in art; and important artworks and buildings

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First published in the U.K. as The Bloomsbury Guide to Art, this first North American edition is a worthy complement--and, in some ways, successor--to The Oxford Companion to Art (1970) and The Oxford Dictionary of Art (1988). Subtitled A Comprehensive Survey and Dictionary of Western Art and Architecture, The Bulfinch Guide both updates the Oxford titles and offers features that they lack, such as art historical essays (the survey part of the subtitle) and plates containing 187 color reproductions.

The 13 essays address an array of topics from "Art in the Classical World" to "Women as Artists and Subjects." While most of the contributors are art historians from British universities, the essayists include lecturers in history, cultural studies, and critical theory. Each essay is accessible to nonspecialist readers, and all terms and names with entries in the dictionary section are indicated by a symbol preceding them. Bibliographies follow each essay.

The dictionary section, while containing about the same amount of text as The Oxford Dictionary of Art and about half that of The Oxford Companion to Art, covers some topics that they neglect. For example, The Oxford Companion has no entry for Frida Kahlo and no mention of her in the articles on Mexican art or Diego Rivera. The Bulfinch Guide includes entries for artists, architects, patrons, art historians, theorists, and critics; art and architecture terms; subjects and symbols in art; and important artworks and buildings. While the focus is purposely Eurocentric, one will find entries on Aboriginal art, Chinese art, Mandala, and Hokusai. Entries range in length from a few sentences to more than a page. Black-and-white illustrations accompany many entries, while colorplates are arranged alphabetically by artist in four sections. There is no discernible coordination between text and colorplates; the text does not refer the reader to particular plates or vice versa. Cross-references appear both between and within entries, while brief bibliographies are appended to most entries.

The Bulfinch Guide to Art History is highly recommended for academic, public, and secondary school libraries, as well as for individuals with a need for an up-to-date, one-volume art reference.

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