Book Review: Art History: A Very Short Introduction

Art History:  A Very Short Introduction, by Dana Arnold

At times there are benefits to reading books that are very short.  In this particular case, the author has such a transparently obvious agenda about Art History that is entirely contrary to my own interests in the field that the shortness of the book is probably the only thing that keeps me from hating it altogether.  The author’s necessity to talk about how it is that art history developed keeps her from spending too much time whining about the cis-white-male hegemony in the field, which the author makes it clear she does whine about in her other writings, which I will make it a point to avoid so as to not waste my time reading garbage.  Honestly, art history deserves to be written by people who appreciate the perspectives that have inspired the best art, namely an appreciation of beauty, a desire to celebrate God, and the enjoyment of God’s creation.  The author does not seem well-inclined to appreciate these things and even complains about them, but she is honest enough about art that there are at least a few positive comments about the art of the past that she manages to make between all the leftist rubbish.

This book is a short one, living up to its title in that respect at least.  Coming in at between 100 and 150 pages, the book begins with a preface to the second edition where the author puffs herself up, then continues with two sections of acknowledgments, and a list of illustrations.  After that the book begins properly with a discussion of what art history is and the author’s attempts to make such definitions more problematic, a course of action that is continued throughout the volume (1).  After that the author looks at the writing of art history (2), and, as one might expect, the various conventions that are discussed in how art is categorized by art historians.  The author then discusses global issues so she can talk about the heathen African art she really appreciates rather than the European art she has less appreciation for (somehow ignoring the long tradition of European cave art and murals and only viewing European art as beginning with the classical Greeks and Romans) (3).  This leads to a discussion of the presentation of art history in museums (4) as well as the way that the author thinks about art history (5), and then the way that the author recommends the reader read (6) and look at art (7).  After that there is a glossary, references, suggestions for further reading, and an index.

This is a very short introduction and if I was looking for a longer guide I would certainly be less than interesting in reading a book with this particular perspective on art and on the study of art.  The best sort of book in this field would celebrate the role of religion in the creation of art and would also show an appreciation of the subject matter that was chosen as well as the patronage system that supported artists.  There is a good reason why contemporary art is not viewed very highly by fans of art, and the author seems somewhat oblivious to the disconnect that exists between the general taste in the art that people want to enjoy for themselves, which has been priced out of all but the wealthiest buyers, and the sort of art that people want to create, which does not respond to those tastes but rather to the decadence and corruption of the artists themselves and their perspective.  Unfortunately, that is not an aspect of art history that the author pays attention to because she is focused on museums, which still promote the sort of garbage art that a lot of people nowadays want to make to make themselves famous with similarly morally bankrupt art critics.  Alas, that too is a subject related to art history.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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