16 December 2007

30,000 Years Of Art

30,000 Years Of Art
30,000 Years Of Art: The Story Of Human Creativity Across Time & Space, published by Phaidon, features 1,000 artworks from cave paintings to conceptual art. Each work is illustrated by a full-page, colour photograph, and accompanied by a few paragraphs of explanatory text, following the same format as Phaidon's The Art Book and The 20th Century Art Book.

30,000 Years Of Art spans the entire history of artistic achievement, and features works from around the world. In addition to painting, sculpture, installation, and video, it also includes decorative art: ceramics, textiles, and metalwork. (In contrast, The Art Book is restricted to Western art since the Renaissance, and decorative art is excluded.) Unlike The Art Book, there are no cross-references but there is an index.

Each artist is restricted to a single entry. Some artists are represented by their most famous works, such as Velasquez (Las Meninas), Richard Hamilton (Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?), and Picasso (Les Demoiselles d'Avignon), though others are not: Leonardo's first portrait (Ginevra de' Benci) is included instead of the Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo is represented by his Dying Slave sculpture rather than David or the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

30,000 Years Of Art, weighing almost 6kg with more than 1,000 pages, is an excellent introduction to international art history. The Story Of Art (by EH Gombrich; also published by Phaidon), A World History Of Art (by John Fleming and Hugh Honour), and Art Through The Ages (by Helen Gardner) are the best single-volume art histories.