When Dorling Kindersley agreed to let us review their work, I was elated. You dear viewer, had expressed interest and I want to please you, obviously. But a book like THE ART BOOK claim, Big ideas, simply explained, always leaves me cold. The problem with any broad book on say an art form or subject matter, is that it enviably has to cut corners. Slice ideas. Condense theory. Even avoid thematic discourses for narrative and complexity issues.

However on opening the, reviewing the contributors and then the contents page, I was stirred. Historically, the subject is given breadth and depth that is impressive and impassioned. Moving chronologically from pre history to present day movements. We start, as our species did, in the rocks and cave. Painting animals and abstracts. Discussion reflect the lack of understanding but hint at a possible. Then the shift to classical art, expressed passionately and historically interconnected.

After this the book hits its stride. Christian art, defused with longing and desire. Reverence and spirituality. Written subjectively but intelligently. Islamic art is brought to the table and extracted. All done, channelling the effect and not the affect, on the discipline. The Renaissance and Mannerism section deals with perspective in a robust way. Giving the amateur a flavour and the expert an underpinning. It also moves us forward into the age of art as ego. Masaccio Holy Trinity section is exemplary.

Art moved almost at a snails pace prior but as the gear is shifted, so is the radical embraced. In the crowded Baroque and Neoclassicism section, the weight is hard for it to bare but it does thanks to succinct portfolio pages, detailing great works and names. Romanticism to Symbolism surprisingly kept the subject in control but allowed the works of Monet senior, Friedrich, Hiroshige and Whistler all to coalesce on the pages.

We end in the modern age. The detailed discourse on Moore uplifts his work for the casual explorer and the visual timeline of device and art, allows you to define where Pollock balances other luminaries like Rothko. On finishing the book for the first time, I admit to being surprised. I revisited it twice more before writing this, finding new thoughts, ideas, topic and artists every time.  Visually across the whole book, ideas are exposed and explained powerfully but without baggage. The importance of one is never overshadowed by other. DK have almost treated us to the most engaging and informative lay mans study of the subject, which still treats art with reverence, information as power and respects the reader to distil both. A stunning book.



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