Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Peter Whitfield offers a whirlwind tour of “The History of Western Art”. He begins with cave paintings and ends with performance art by an “artist” locked in a library with a wild animal. The distressing thought is that “art is anything you can get away with.”
In slightly more than five hours of narration, a listener traverses 30,000 years (some say 40,000 years) of art history. Whitfield is a poet and critic. “The History of Art” is an intelligent introduction to a mystifying, fascinating, and intimidating subject.
At the end, one wonders whether art is entering a new dark age where the value of art is degraded by technology that makes too much of medium as message. Art needs to be more than a transaction between willing seller and buyer.
The Judgment of Paris offers a story of rebellion and art's transition from classic to impressionistic realism. Art's transition takes place in the context of war. Though Ross King’s book is largely about an art movement, it is also about France’s transition from monarchy to republic. King shows that art and history are judged by Paris’ events.
King cleverly melds the transition of art with transition in politics in "The Judgment of Paris". Change is shown to be a hard; with unpredictable consequence. Consequence of change is measured by time and recorded history. Change of minds and alliances inch society closer to something different; both in art and politics. History records the value of the difference.
The word modern depends on a writer’s place in history. To Giorgio Vasari, in the art world, modern begins with Cimabue and rises to a pinnacle of modern art with da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian.
“Lives of the Artists” credits modern art to Cimabue and Giotto with what is seen in nature as their inspiration. Vasari argues that Cimabue and Giotto break away from the symbolic form of Byzantine design to re-awaken the arts of architecture, sculpture, and painting. In “Lives of the Artists” Vasari chronicles the rise of 16th century “modern” art.
Vasari’s book is a fascinating examination of a great era of art by an artist that actually met Leonardo de Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti.