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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A useful and enjoyable introduction to looking at paintings., 30 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: What is Painting?: Representation and Modern Art (Paperback)
What is painting? gives an outline of the history of painting from the Renaissance to the present. It is an ideal introduction to visual culture, both for those looking for help in making gallery visits more enjoyable and for the student ofmore dense theoretical debate surrounding the subject.
Unlike many books attempting a general summary of the story of painting over time, Bell does not spend pages describing obvious features of painting, or attempt to be a technical manual on how to achieve certain effects in paint. Nor does he attempt to go into the personal lives of the artists or tell you what they might have been thinking.
Instead he summarises with refreshing succinctness, and illustrates, general changes in the western world view and how that manifested in painting.
Far more useful and interesting than the manifold descriptive histories abounding on bookshelves, and also much needed in the current cotnext of theoretical debate around visual culture which can be intimidating to the uninformed but interested layman.
The book reads easily and enjoyably, without being uselessly superficial. Bell does not claim to be a theoretician, and makes it clear when inserting his own opinions and generalisations, allowing readers to think for themselves.
Bell approaches painting from a Western viewpoint and stays within that tradition. He makes useful reference to some of the theoretical debates surrounding visual culture. While he limits himself to discussing painting, much of the content can be applied to other forms of visual art.
Above all this book is useful as a general overview of changing trends in the Western history of art, allowing the reader to easily orientate the works in time. It credits the reader with intelligence, without expecting prior knowledge on the subject. For more detail on these debates, one needs to look elsewhere, and Bell makes it possible to make informed choices on where to go next.
I only wish that this book had been written ten years ago!
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What is Painting?: Representation and Modern Art
What is Painting?: Representation and Modern Art by Julian Bell (Paperback - 26 April 1999)
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