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93 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb read!
In high school I acquired just a very superficial knowledge of the history of Art and, though I studied Engineering at the university, I have always felt a deep need to know something more on Art. Professor Gombrich's book is THE book that has helped me in learning what the "purpose" of Art is, how to judge a picture, a statue or a building. This book has...
Published on 26 May 2000

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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful, but with a dated perspective.
My copy of this, inherited from my father, is the 13th edition, revised in 1972. E.H.Gombrich died not that long ago, so may have revised it again since; the man himself, however, is unlikely to have changed much. The blurb claims it "spans the entire history of artistic creation . . . All periods and styles are covered, including the art of "primitive" tribes . . ."...
Published on 3 July 2011 by Peasant


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive survey but maybe slightly dated, 8 Oct 2009
By 
This review is from: The Story of Art (Paperback)
This classic publication by Sir Gombrich is interesting for its content: yes, it is a traditional chronological survey from "strange beginnings" to "experimental art"; yes it deals with Western art and completely leaves aside extra-European cultures throughout the world (although there is actually a chapter "Looking eastwards: Islam, China, second to thirteenth century"); yes, Gombrich encapsulates in a few words very elaborate and complex ideas and developments of art history.

It is probably a worthy book to read for amateurs, since its narrative take has a very satisfying feel to it. Gombrich must have been a storyteller to issue such a popular book. This can make it irritating at points too, for instance, looking at Masaccio's frescoes, (who "must have been an extraordinary genius"), "we can almost touch them, and this feeling brings them and their message nearer to us... They always used them to bring the meaning of their subject still nearer to our minds", all phrasing which are not common practice of nowadays art history.

For advanced amateurs and connoisseurs, it is a valuable evidence of how the discipline of art history once was told, and is still worded nowadays by some art historians who practice a "traditional" art history. There is also something fascinating in considering that the author is able to deal with "Rome and Byzantium, fifth to thirteenth century" in just over four pages of text.

Maybe the most annoying trait of the text is the old terminology which sorts and articulate logically artists, artistic centres and foyers as "innovative" or "lagging behind", which brings a unnecessary teleological/deterministic flavour to the narrative.

There might be a need for most readers interested in art history to move on/away from this Gombrich bestseller towards more recent publications such as Onians edited volume The Art Atlas.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another lifetime, 22 Jan 2011
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Story of Art (Paperback)
Gombrich begins, with integrity and frankness, by telling us that there is really no such thing as art. He means of course that there is no final definition of what constitutes a work of art, or of how to evaluate such works. By extension there is no single, definitive `Story of Art', and he would be the first to admit that there is an indefinite number of journeys we could take through the chronology of humanity's artistic expression. He would also agree that the more varied such journeys we take the deeper will our understanding of this quintessentially human phenomenon become. So why should we favour Gombrich's account over others that are out there, at least as a point of departure? Well above it all it must be because of the complete absence of academic jargon and pretension that bedevils so much of art history writing. It would seem that Gombrich has written the text with an enthusiastic teenager in mind, someone who brings nothing to the subject other than a willingness to look where shown, and who can be relied upon to resonate with his own excitement. This is truly an ABC of art history, and its writing manages to be both engagingly eloquent and refreshingly simple. Gombrich's historical approach is primarily based on the technical development of means and of ways of seeing the world. Alongside this the themes of the role of art within society, the purposes to which it is put, and the artist's relation to his audience and economic conditions that make his work possible, are kept firmly in view. Onto this conceptual skeleton are added the individual artists themselves, many known to all, some perhaps familiar only to a few, and the evolving discourses of aesthetics and criticism. Also of interest is the gradual expansion of themes and subjects that are considered suitable for art.

My own lifetime experience of the art we find in galleries, public and commercial, probably echoes that of many, in that I have always had a strong instinctive sense of what I like, what I respond to immediately. However, against this there has always been a large obstinate bulk of works that I look at and feel that I am supposed to admire, but cannot for the life of me tell why. After reading this book I am confident that many periods and genres of painting are going to open up to me in new and vivid ways. If only I had read this book before trekking through the corridors of the Uffizi in Florence over two such memorable days, some years back. I would bring so much more understanding to the experience now.

The other area in which Gombrich has lifted the scales from my eyes is in that of architecture, whose closely interrelated history alongside art is considered as a parallel theme. It happens to coincide for me with studies for an Open University course that include architectural elements, and the two together have served to transform my experience of walking down any street in which some measure of thought has been put into the buildings that line it. A most interesting effect for me has been to allow me to finally articulate exactly what I dislike about the prim and fussy décor that characterises so many of our great country houses.

There are various more or less reasonable complaints that might be levelled against the book, all of which I have no doubt Gombrich would have ready and convincing answers for. Though he does occasionally look beyond Europe, it is primarily an account of the High Art tradition as it has developed in Western Europe, as mostly found today in galleries and museums, and perhaps the prints on the walls of our homes. There is much the book has had to omit, both to keep it to a tractable size, and so as not to obscure the arguments he is proffering. There are many names, genres, countries, schools and -isms, about all of whom marvellous stories might be told, who will not be found in this book. Gombrich would be the first to admit this, knowing from the outset that a definitive Story of Art, in all its glorious plenitude of forms and guises, was a sheer impossibility.

I can sympathise with the reviewer here who bemoans the fact that this magnificent work and the tremendous clarification it brings has arrived so late in life. After decades of wandering around galleries and buildings, sometimes excited, sometimes deeply moved, but too often slightly bemused and unsure, I feel at last I have been given the keys of insight into just what I am suppose to be looking at. All I would ask for now is a whole other lifetime in which to put my new found comprehension into practice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant, 4 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Story of Art (Paperback)
Nothing else to say - I am a complete novice in the topic and have found the book enjoyable and useful. I read it a first time quickly and then a second time taking notes - I would recommend it to any one interested in picking up history of art !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book, 1 May 2013
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Anybody interested in art should have it on the shelf!
It contains the most important facts from the history of art!
Must read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, 20 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Story of Art (Paperback)
Like most people I was aware of people like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso etc. and have enjoyed looking at art throughout my life, but I had never read a history of art book before. I came across this book by accident but thought I would 'give it a go'.

What a great decision it was too! I was totally capitivated and found it hard to put down. As a newcomer to the subject, I appreciated Prof. Gombrich style of writing; he is a superb teacher and he made the subject so accessible and enjoyable. I loved the way he illustrates his text with excellent (and to the point) examples of art and also the way he constantly refers back to previous examples he has mentioned, so that the reader can understand how everything fits into the story. I also came to realise that we should not judge art too harshly and that its better to seek to understand what the artist was attempting to do before we do so. Of course we all have 'tastes' but it is still good to approach art with some caution before judging something negatively.

This is most certainly not a dusty and dry academic book (and don't be put off by the amount of pages - if anything I would have wished that it was longer). Its a truly lively, interesting and immensely exciting introduction to the history of art. This is a 'must have' book and is not only useful for reading from start to finish but also as a reference work.

Prof. Gombrich approaches the subject with humility, honesty and respect. He does not teach from some lofty and aloof academic position, but you sense you are journeying with him through this amazing story. He is a tremendous guide and I felt like I did not want the journey to end. I also appreciated the updates he added at the end of the book, in order to reveal developments since he first published it.

If I have one criticism, it is that I wish he had provided more detail and examples on the 2nd half of the 20th Century (new developments in modern art - as I want to understand this area but struggle to do so). However, having said that I understand that the book is just an introduction to an immense subject and so it is unfair to be overly critical of what he has decided to focus on in the book. He does though provide a list of other works at the end of the book for further reading. He also includes some really interesting charts too.

Overall, a simply fantastic work by an excellent expositor. I would recommend this to anyone and if you are uncertain about paying the price for it - then I would counter by saying its worth at least double the price.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely beautiful book!, 28 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Story of Art (Gombrich, Ernst Hans Josef//Story of Art) (Hardcover)
When studying my A level History of Art I found this book priceless...the writing style is beautiful with the most fantastic pull out pages of the larger works of art. A truly brilliant and beautiful book for either students or just as a gift for someone who is interested in the history of art. A definite buy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only I had read this book years ago!, 7 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Story of Art (Paperback)
At nearly 70 I am reading this excellent book for the first time! I have long been interested in the development of art but my scanty knowledge gleaned over the years did not enable me to see how the "jigsaw" fitted together. This book is accessible and immensely readable. I have bought it for my daughter so that she can begin her journey through art history long before I did. I can recommend this book, as an essential basic reader, to anyone of any age who is interested in finding out about how art developed throughout the world.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful, but with a dated perspective., 3 July 2011
By 
Peasant (Deepest England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Story of Art (Paperback)
My copy of this, inherited from my father, is the 13th edition, revised in 1972. E.H.Gombrich died not that long ago, so may have revised it again since; the man himself, however, is unlikely to have changed much. The blurb claims it "spans the entire history of artistic creation . . . All periods and styles are covered, including the art of "primitive" tribes . . .". Well, up to a point; certainly any book making that claim today would have a very different perspective.

Usefully, the margins are wide, leaving plenty of space for pencilled scribblings; some of mine, I note, decidedly tetchy. Gombrich's view of art history is very mid-century (the first publication was 1950); absolutely Eurocentric, disproportionately reverential to the high Renaissance and Impressionism. He sees a very strong storyline leading from Egypt, through Greece and Rome, losing its way in the Middle Ages, resurgent in the 15th century, moving inexorably on to the triumph of Impressionism. True, there are glimpses of the world outside Europe; Chapter One includes the art of pre-Columbian America in with "prehistoric and primitive peoples", (eg Aboriginal art from Australia, about which European scholarship now has quite another viewpoint.) and Chapter 7 covers the whole of Islam and China from 100AD to 1200AD, while Buddhist art up to 300AD is permitted to share a chapter with the art of "Romans, Jews and Christians" in the same period.

So far, so bad. If this was all, the book would only be of interest as a period piece. But, if you accept and set aside the bias - no more than one would expect for the time - there is still a lot worth reading. Gombrich's scholarship is immense, his discussion of the development of taste and style in Europe both thorough and easily understood, and his understanding of individual works of art illuminating. We must ask ourselves how much of Gombrich's perspective is his own, how much what he assumed was required in a textbook of the period.

This is still an interesting read for a student of art history; have your pencil ready to scribble in the margins if you wish. It is also required reading for anyone studying precisely the history of art history as a discipline. Comparing it with contemporary books such as The Nude (Penguin Art & Architecture) - in which Kenneth Clark discusses the subject in depth without once mentioning Gustav Klimt, or THE MEANING OF BEATY (that should be "beauty", of course) - once a set text and now no more than a curiosity, will enable the reader to assess Gombrich's status in the right context.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very welcome addition to the collection of reference books., 4 Dec 2009
By 
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This review is from: The Story of Art (Paperback)
This is one of the reliable reference books I've been meaning to buy for ages.I see from some of the reviewers that it is not considered the "Bible" I'd assumed it to be.However,that is an interesting observation.I wanted a ready source of reliable information,simple to consult and suited to someone without specialist knowledge.I would add that it is beautiful to look at,a pleasure to use and not too heavy!Many thanks,Amazon,for providing this at a lovely price.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive survey, 29 Mar 2009
By 
This review is from: The Story of Art (Paperback)
This classic publication by Sir Gombrich is interesting for its content: yes, it is a traditional chronological survey from "strange beginnings" to "experimental art"; yes it deals with Western art and completely leaves aside extra-European cultures throughout the world (although there is actually a chapter "Looking eastwards: Islam, China, second to thirteenth century"); yes, Gombrich encapsulates in a few words very elaborate and complex ideas and developments of art history.

It is probably a worthy book to read for amateurs, since its narrative take has a very satisfying feel to it. Gombrich must have been a storyteller to issue such a popular book. This can make it irritating at points too, for instance, looking at Masaccio's frescoes, (who "must have been an extraordinary genius"), "we can almost touch them, and this feeling brings them and their message nearer to us... They always used them to bring the meaning of their subject still nearer to our minds", all phrasing which are not common practice of nowadays art history.

For advanced amateurs and connoisseurs, it is a valuable evidence of how the discipline of art history once was told, and is still worded nowadays by some art historians who practice a "traditional" art history. There is also something fascinating in considering that the author is able to deal with "Rome and Byzantium, fifth to thirteenth century" in just over four pages of text.

Maybe the most annoying trait of the text is the old terminology which sorts and articulate logically artists, artistic centres and foyers as "innovative" or "lagging behind", which brings a unnecessary teleological/deterministic flavour to the narrative.
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