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Publisher's Summary

What is art? Why do we value images of saints, kings, goddesses, battles, landscapes or cities from eras of history utterly remote from ourselves? This history of art shows how painters, sculptors and architects have expressed the belief systems of their age: religious, political and aesthetic.

From the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, to the revolutionary years of the 19th and 20th centuries, the artist has acted as a mirror to the ideals and conflicts of the human mind. He has always started with reality, but has selected and reshaped that reality to create a parallel world; a world of the imagination.

©2011 Naxos AudioBooks (P)2011 Naxos AudioBooks

What listeners say about The History of Western Art

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A whirlwind tour of Western art

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to refresh their previous study of art history, as well as to students who need a concise introduction. Tourists can benefit from the book also: it is a valuable adjunct to European museum visits and city walks. Whitfield takes us on a whirlwind tour of major artistic themes and styles, mostly European, from cave paintings to the edge of postmodernism. Comberti's reading is pleasant and well-paced. The only thing that's missing: the paintings themselves. Having a visual art reference on hand is recommended. I'm an artist, so the subject fascinates me. But I believe anyone can benefit from reading this accessible guide, free from pretentious "art speak."

10 people found this helpful

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Superbly Written

Would you consider the audio edition of The History of Western Art to be better than the print version?

Peter Whitfield has a deep understanding of art history and manages to communicate it undiluted without pretence. Some of his observations are stunning, and always concise. The other art history university textbooks I've read are watered down and politically bent, but Whitfield just states it like it is with utter virtuosity. His sentences are art.The narration is good, I'm cherishing listening to this.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The History of Western Art?

The Renaissance

6 people found this helpful

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A very good introduction to the western art

A very good introduction to the history of western art. In depth written and very nice to hear.

3 people found this helpful

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ART

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.

8 people found this helpful

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Every thing you need to know about western Art.

Would you consider the audio edition of The History of Western Art to be better than the print version?

Dunno

Who was your favorite character and why?

Vincent Van Gogh - he was so ahead of his time.

What about Sebastian Comberti’s performance did you like?

Excellent

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

This is what makes life worth it. Culture and Art.

Any additional comments?

I listen to it over and over. A joy to hear. Still, I don't understand why Hockeny was so great.

4 people found this helpful

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Good overview, very problematic discussions of Gauguin. No inclusion of women.

It’s a nice overview and the book is well written, but Gaugain is repeatedly referenced as a marker by which we should look at other modern art. Gauguin was notoriously a pedophile and painted the –as this book would call them - ‘savage’ native and indigenous girls who he married. Most if not all of those girls were under the age of 16. Gauguin was renowned in his time for being insufferable and racist and was expelled from one artistic group after another. The podcast ‘The Art History Babes’ has an excellent discussion of Gauguin. One should also feel free to read his journals and letters to his friends in Europe. It becomes clear very quickly what kind of an artist he was.

This book also fails to include women in the artistic world outside of one or two big names. It also does not discuss any people of color and used the words ‘savage’ and ‘primitive’ far more than I am comfortable with to describe indigenous or indigenous-inspired art.

That being said, it is a good overview, very well performed and manages to explain in many cases what exactly made each art movement what it was. I really do appreciate many of the ideas in the book, and I love the philosophical idea that art is what defines our inner selves, but the book as a whole needs to be re-examined, read and understood through the lense of the modern world.

1 person found this helpful

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AWESOME ART

The author puts art and history together. Easy to listen to and understand.I found I was researching artists and works as the narrative continued. Of course there will be some gaps -- but overall pretty cool.

4 people found this helpful

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Quick review

This book was a nice review of art history class. It helps to Google the paintings as you go for a deeper engagement with the text, but it's not necessary to understand the overall survey of art history.

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Title says it all.

Narration: Normally I like British voices but this one seems overdone.

Content: A bit annoying that explanations often employ abstract adjectives which are not informative for the fledgling history of art student.

1 person found this helpful

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Great history.

This has been a really good book to listen to while working. I wish I could have gone straight through. I will listen again. So much information here. I think if I read it I would have skipped around and missed a lot.

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  • Crocker
  • 01-28-12

Not entirely what was expected

Whilst the narrator and the text are of interest, I was under the misguided impression that the downloadable PDF would contain visual examples of the work under discussion and not a chapter index and list of background music .This might well be a case of an illustrated book being be a better option

16 people found this helpful

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  • Zenouf the Birdcatcher
  • 09-22-17

Thought Provoking

A splendidly thoughtful exposition on the world of western art. Highly recommended for anyone with a passing interest in Art.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Erika Gofton
  • 08-17-17

Disappointing

Disappointed and angry that a book written in 2011 mentions in the whole of western art ONE WOMAN! Where are the women??????

6 people found this helpful

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  • Chelsea
  • 01-03-21

Fantastic introduction to western art

I came to this book knowing almost nothing about art history, and found it to be a wonderful introduction. I made sure to pause the audio every time a painting, building or sculpture was mentioned, so I could see for myself what was being discussed. Doing this made me get so much more out of it than I otherwise would have I think. It ended up taking me about 15 hours to get through the 5 hour book, because I loved looking at the paintings carefully and reading the Wikipedia pages on the periods/artists as I went. This book has sparked an interest in art history, and I have since purchased a college-level art history book to explore it much more deeply. The narrator had a very pleasant voice. I couldn’t be happier with this introduction to the intimidating world of art history.