The Oxford History of Western Art Hardcover – 30 Mar 2000
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Despite its telephone directory dimensions, Martin Kemp's Oxford Dictionary of Western Art as a vigorous chronicle of Western visual culture is remarkably concise. In an exercise of editorial sadism (a tautology?), he has not spared the whip on his team of 50 international critics and academics, who have been forced to distil a lifetime's study of a period or style into a few hundred words. Against this background of bit-champing, what emerges is a lucid, breathless panoramic span of the Western artistic spectrum from its roots in the Greek and Roman empires through to the giddy blur of postmodernism. By opening with the Elgin Marbles and closing with a picture of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Kemp bookends his survey with two icons that typify the complex relationships that Art, the self-conscious descendant of art, has of necessity maintained with ownership, patronage, and power. The splitting of the history into five temporal sections successfully prevents any genre fatigue, and the diversity of media discussed is both enlightened and enlightening, with sections on interiors, spaces, prints, sculpture, photography and crafts.
With so ambitious a project, which at times must have been like catching water in a sieve, inevitably there are omissions--a disappointing lack of Celtic art, for example--but ample room is allocated to associated subjects such as art history, criticism and galleries, as well as European influence elsewhere in the world, and the choices of focus, if less "radical" than the publishers would have us believe, certainly breathe new life into old themes. By re-drawing the lines of development to show evolution rather than succession or progression, Kemp and his contributors have succeeded in assembling and contextualising a whole every bit as accessible and authoritative as its multifarious parts, a record of which they as a team, and we as a society, should be justly proud. --David Vincent
About the Author
Martin Kemp, British Academy Wolfson Professor (1993-8) and Professor of the History of Art, University of Oxford, is one of the UK's most distinguished art historians. His many publications include Leonardo da Vinci: Artist, Scientist, Inventor; The Science of Art; and Behind the Picture: Art and Evidence in the Italian Renaissance. He lives in the U.K.
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Top Customer Reviews
It can be used as a reference book. A lot of good quality and relevant illustrations too