The Oxford History of Western Art

Martin Kemp, Editor Oxford University Press, USA $65 (576p) ISBN 978-0-19-860012-1
The dogmatic overviews of art that are the traditional texts for students in college-level survey classes and the occasional museum-goer are overthrown by this refreshing and accessible survey. Instead of foregone conclusions, renowned art historian Kemp and his 50 contributors (representing a diversity of backgrounds and specialties) offer an elasticized look at art and an understanding that poses as many questions as it answers. Instead of taking a purely visual approach (i.e., organized by style and medium along a linear chronology), Kemp focuses on social, religious and political history, occasionally showing art in situ and juxtaposing photos by subject matter, but without ignoring standard art historical pedagogy. The first section, for example, focuses on the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome, but includes a subsection on ""Ancient Paradigms from Augustus to Mussolini."" The final section, ""Modernism and After,"" extends the book's western reach to include the art of the Soviet Union, Latin America and India, and discusses the roles of art museums and galleries and the evolving discipline of art history. ""Ultimately, there is no reason to look at art,"" Kemp writes in the epilogue, ""but many of us cannot stop doing it, and it clearly meets fundamental human needs visually, intellectually, and psychologically. This book is designed to assist in meeting those needs."" And so it does. (Oct. 31)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
Paperback - 564 pages - 978-0-19-280415-0
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