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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to the world of modern art
Robert Hughes has written a very readable and extremely informative introduction to developments in 20th century art. This illustrated book was originally written to accompany a TV series of the same name. Whilst focusing primarily on art, neither architecture nor design are overlooked. The social, political and economic contexts of artistic development (such as the...
Published on 27 April 2002

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy reading and nice illustrations.
The illustrations prompted by the text were the most informative element of this work. It is perfect for the coffee table and will blast the visitors right out of it. I can't say I understood it though I might say I did. The english was good and understandable in parts like the curate's egg, but was quite over my head for the most part. Terrible to admit - a case of the...
Published 13 months ago by Mr. Finbar Gallagher


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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to the world of modern art, 27 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (Paperback)
Robert Hughes has written a very readable and extremely informative introduction to developments in 20th century art. This illustrated book was originally written to accompany a TV series of the same name. Whilst focusing primarily on art, neither architecture nor design are overlooked. The social, political and economic contexts of artistic development (such as the impact of war and totalitarianism) are not forgotten - as the subtitle "art and the century of change" suggests. Any person interested in modern art (and the contexts leading to emergence of styles) will enjoy and ought to read this book.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, and for good reason, 19 Aug 2004
By A Customer
Hughes has the gift of producing an extraordinarily well turned phrase that, without being needlessly complex, can encapsulate a big idea with ease. Where better to employ such a skill than in explaining the history of modern art? Through each of the thematic chapters Hughes keeps his story grounded in the history of the 20th century, demonstrating how modernism sought to describe the experience of that era and that for many key art movements this was a practical task of vital importance. To bring that vitality and immediacy back through the well-chosen example and well-turned phrase is the heart of this book's success. Hughes expresses views with which other art historians may disagree, but this book is perhaps the best way into the subject as a whole.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange stories from the land of modern art, 1 July 2009
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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It's been over a week now since I finished this and I'm still arguing, or at least discussing, with Hughes in my head, many of the issues arising directly and indirectly from my reading. I am very familiar with many of the reproductions in this book from my University days, when this was a set text for my then Girlfriend's Art History course. I have a vague recollection of seeing some of the TV programmes too, which lamentably do not appear to be released on DVD.

Recent animated discussions on the Amazon classical music forum have awakened an interest in general 20th Century Cultural History, one aspect of which is consideration of the visual arts. Browsing for a general book to bring me up to speed on these matters I found that this was still, over twenty years later, the book to go for.

Before all else I have to praise Hughes' prose which is poetic and poetically informed without being remotely limp-wristed or pretentious as so much writing on art is. It is vigorously intelligent without being elitist or esoteric, and has a robust common-sense quality even when discussing the most abstract considerations, bringing the issues vividly to life.

Hughes does not attempt to present a unified narrative of the subject but rather identifies a selection of broad themes, which he then pursues more or less chronologically, and and with each of which he associates a group of more or less representative artists, some well known but a few less well known. In general more text is devoted to the early half of the century than thw latter.

Thus, for instance, the theme of the first chapter is the impact of burgeoning technology on society and the response of artists to it. This is a cue for a discussion of the fascinating dialectical exchange between Cubism and Futurism, which burned so fiercely, only to become moot with the advent of WWI. The second chapter examines the fraught relationship between art and politics, and the story of the belief that art could be a lever for constructive social change. Such ideals wereso strong after WWI yet now seen as entirely naive and redundant, at least in intellectual circles, by our own more cynical or perhaps just wiser day. And so on. Chapter 3 examines the modern reduction of nature to a venue for bourgeois leisure, while 4 charts the rise and collapse of hopes for modernist architecture as a path to utopian social engineering. Chapters 5 and 6 look at the psychological aspect of modern art - how psychoanalysis gave birth surrealism, and the quest for alternate realities, how madness manifested through such exemplars as Van Gogh and Munch, and attempts to express religio-mystical insights by such as the theosophically inclined Kandinsky (a worldview Hughes has little time for whilst still admiring the artworks).

As I read through the book I found myself thinking that these multiple naratives are all very well, but what are the unifying characteristics that make all these different types of activity Art, and how did we arrive at an epoch where, after centuries of art having a handful of easily identifiable social functions, it should suddenly mutate into all these different modes of expression, and start to operate on so many new and diverse areas of social significance. The other question raised was that pretty well all these narratives ended in failure and intellectual bankrupty. Where then was art, and also architecture, left at the end of these stories? It should be borne in mind that this second edition was published in 91.

He answers these questions to some extent, but by no means exhaustively, in the eigth and final chapter. His conclusion is more or less that in the post eighties, post Reagan, post yuppie era art has resumed one of its original functions. Namely, as a repository of financial value for the wealthy, and that the huge inflation of the art market in those decades had seriously spannered the public significance of a 'great work of art' in society.

So, since completing this book I find myself brimming with questions about the nature of art, visual art that is, today. Clearly art is alive and well. Our society abounds ever more abundantly with images created with all levels of skill, and with a multitude of meanings and intents. But, one finds oneself asking, will we ever again know the shock of the new?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars intelligent, 3 Oct 2008
By 
pete "big blue pete" (edinburgh scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (Paperback)
A set text in art schools this will help you see where art students get all their original ideas from, The SOTN is an excellent book, not light reading but weighty intelligent and written with all the gusto and opinion that Robert Hughes appraoches everything. Excellent stuff.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic, 17 Mar 2013
By 
J. F. Lawton "originaldestiny" (yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (Paperback)
Funnily enough I purchased the book just after the death of the author and the release of the archive film documentaries the book is based on. So I could read and watch at the same time which only increased the value of the books content.
The author has a unique writing style which can be a little verbose is easily absorbed, the content and critique is excellent, he is not afraid of giving opinion. Many art books are just glorified lists of prominent artists of each "ism" giving a brief outline of each movement, its mandate, a few photographs of the most well known paintings, then onto the next "ism". The Shock of the New is a very good read, it would help if the BBC produced the Documentary on DVD so you could read and watch a the same time
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine readable account of the changes that have occurred in art over the last century., 11 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (Paperback)
Robert Hughes book is a well researched account of the changes that have taken place in art over the last century. Much of the analysis of the artists which he has chosen is perceptive and well balanced in his judgement. It is a pity that he has chosen such a long time frame to cover, which has meant that many fine artists such as Moore, Hepworth and Bacon are missed out but Cézanne and Picasso are included who are hardly new artists or shocking any more and much has been written about their work. If the book had covered the last fifty years there would have been space to cover more recent artists who have shocked and stoked controversy such as Emin, Hirst, Lucas and many more. Perhaps time for another book.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 3 Jun 2001
This review is from: The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (Paperback)
This book is absolutely great to read and provides a critical understanding of the course of modern art, not so much in a chronological sense but relating each art currents and/or artists to present a clearer idea on its background and concepts. A very pleasant reading whilst raising issues that make the reader rethink the reasons behind each significant art moment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shock of the New, 17 Nov 2012
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This review is from: The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (Paperback)
Excellent book, with clear concise writing and proper colour plates, Only sorry I missed the TV series that it accompanies
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best introductions to the modern art history, 15 Oct 2009
By 
Valery Koroshilov (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (Paperback)
Although this text focuses mainly on art, as the title suggests, a great deal of important issues concerned with design and architecture are also covered. Well illustrated, it was written for "THE SHOCK OF THE NEW" TV series. Highly informative, not overwhelming, well structured, it's an excellent source of introductory material for everyone who is interested in the styles and movements of the 20th century art, and the contexts (political, economic and social) which formed the art developments. Robert Hughes's writing style matches the subject perfectly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading, 25 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (Paperback)
This is of course a most useful book for any student of art. Easy to read and understand. It arrived very quickly and in mint condition
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The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change
The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change by Robert Hughes (Paperback - 2 Sep 1991)
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