24 October 2010

A World History Of Art

A World History Of Art
A World History Of Art, by John Fleming and Hugh Honour, is a more comprehensive survey of the entire global history of art than any other single-volume publication. The book has been published by Laurence King since its second edition, and it remains the publisher's flagship title. (In America, it's published by Prentice-Hall as The Visual Arts: A History.)

Laurence King has subsequently commissioned histories of various artistic fields, such as A World History Of Architecture (more accessible, though less detailed, than Banister Fletcher's A History Of Architecture), A History Of Interior Design, History Of Modern Design, Graphic Design: A New History (more engaging, though less scholarly, than Philip B Meggs's A History Of Graphic Design), and Photography: A Cultural History (more up-to-date, and better organised, than Naomi Rosenblum's A World History Of Photography).

The revised seventh edition of A World History Of Art finally has a cover that does justice to the book's contents. The covers of previous editions seemed old-fashioned or insubstantial, though the latest cover - a detail from Picasso's Guernica - and the clean, bold typography on the spine, are suitably striking. There are only minor changes to the text and illustrations (as Michael Archer made more significant revisions in the sixth and seventh editions); one tiny regret is that a photograph of Damien Hirst's shark installation (The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living) has been removed.

EH Gombrich's concise text The Story Of Art remains the classic introduction to art history, though A World History Of Art is more comprehensive and (like all Laurence King publications) benefits from large, full-colour illustrations. Of the major American art textbooks, Helen Gardner's Art Through The Ages is one of the earliest surveys of both Western and non-Western art. Fleming and Honour also co-wrote The Penguin Dictionary Of Decorative Arts and (with Nikolaus Pevsner) the Dictionary Of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, and Honour contributed to World Furniture: An Illustrated History (edited by Helena Hayward).