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58 customer reviews

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(Sep 27, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Art history, from Ancient Greece to Andy Warhol

“Illuminating” —The New York Times

“A work of art” —The New York Times

A sweeping overview of Western art

Title, artist, medium, and date--usually that’s the only information offered by museum placards. But as historian Michael Wood demonstrates, art is so much more than paint on canvas or figures chipped from stone. From the bloody revolution that inspired The Death of Marat to the postwar exuberance of Andy Warhol's Campbell’s Soup Cans, Wood reveals how Western art mirrors Western culture, each work forever reflecting the cultural forces, historical events, and social changes that defined its era.

Beginning in ancient Greece and Rome, historian Michael Wood leads this eye-opening tour through 2,500 years of Western art. Four years in the making and filmed at over 150 locations in 8 countries, this nine-part documentary travels from sun-bleached temples to soaring cathedrals, palaces to villas, galleries to gardens, and Soho’s streets to the Arizona desert. The fascinating journey is complemented by close-up views of masterpieces, walks through important buildings, and informative commentary by historians and scholars.

Special Features

20-page viewer’s guide with an interview with executive producer Perry Miller Adato; a history of frescoes; articles on the windows of Chartres Cathedral, the Paris salons, pop-art controversy, and great artworks lost to history; and timeline of artistic movements
Biographies of major artists and of Michael Wood
Fun facts about oil paints, poems by Michelangelo, and discussion questions at
SDH subtitles

Product Details

  • Format: Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Athena
  • DVD Release Date: September 27, 2011
  • Run Time: 513 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0056G1ARU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,322 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on August 21, 2011
Format: DVD
Western Art 101. Beginning Art Appreciation, yet some details to interest even the aesthetically enlightened. Not conclusive, but an authoritative look worthy of university credit. 9 SUBTITLED episodes presented by art historian, Michael Wood. Many other art scholars are included as the viewer is carried into a film (not stills) of architecture and art pieces from Greece to yesterday's newest art encounter. Wood keeps the presentation at a vocabulary level suitable for most high-school age and above. Recommended for any art major/minor, or anyone taking an appreciation class, and of course art lovers.

Immediately this DVD set brought back my own personal art history experience of 1960s undergraduate art major days. I discovered this series is closely related to a text "History of Art" by H. W. Janson. That university art history text has been preserved by me now for 43 years and was consulted while viewing this DVD set. A Coordinating Producer for the "Art of the Western World" PBS documentary was Gail Janson. I suspect a connection, book-series. Film is an enhanced way to see a sculpture (all sides), painting (zoom), or architecture (interior and out)-- betters textbook photos.

Episodes are each almost an hour, SUBTITLED, and follow Parts and Chapters of the mentioned "History of Art" text. Text locations indicated in ( ).
1: The Classical Ideal
Greek & Roman impact on the world to follow. (Part 1 Chap. 5,7)
2 A white Garment of Churches: Romanesque and Gothic Art
Pilgrimage, cathedrals & monks manuscripts to Gothic flying buttresses & pointed arches.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By David Carlin on December 19, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Exceptional production, Great Host and great writing. Even prior to taking my first college history course on art, I had already viewed this exceptional work on PBS. Michael Wood is the perfect host and you can feel his enthusiasm while transported to each time period.
Wonderful commentary by leading art historians also add to the production.

I was very pleased this was made available on DVD. It has been freely available as a low resolution broadcast on the internet but it's nice to see the full glory of the new digital transfer. It may look dated due to the use of film initially,but it was an exceptional production.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Cramer Austin, Texas on October 28, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have to give this survey mixed reviews because it is so uneven. Each of the nine 55 minute episodes (from the Greeks through Contemporary art) is written and directed by someone different.

Moreover, even though historian Michael Wood narrates all nine, each episode gives considerable time to individual art historians of particular periods and artists. So, for example, in episode 7, "Impressionism and Postimpressionism", one art historian gives a wonderfully accessible yet deeply informed commentary on Courbet, Manet and the Impressionists. And then another art historian takes over for the Postimpressionists, and gives a less accessible art jargon filled commentary.

In addition, some episodes try to cover too much and therefore move quickly, while others such as the one on the Baroque, the focus is kept on seven artists: Pietro di Cortona, Borromini, Bernini, Caravaggio, Velazquez, Rubens and Rembrandt, giving lots of screen time to the paintings themselves, something I really appreciated.

And finally, the production values seem really dated, even though it is from the late 1980s. The production notes say they filmed in 150 locations in eight countries, at considerable cost. And yet that is woven with other grainy stock footage of scenery.

All in all, though, it was worth watching, and the price is reasonable.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Preston on October 20, 2012
This series is one of the finest treatments of Western Art and Art History that is available in multimedia. It is a series that appeals to both experienced art historians, and, persons who want an introduction to art history.

This second episode focuses on the cathedrals and churches constructed in Europe from the tenth century (Romanesque period) to the High Gothic period. It shows how the Middle Age architects used the Roman principles of architecture and engineering, and how they refined Roman building techniques, to create the extraordinary cathedrals and churches of the Middle Ages. This episode not only focuses on the cathedrals of France and Spain, but, also on the Norman spread of Romanesque architecture to England. In appreciating this episode, it helps to have viewed the first episode in the series: The Classical Ideal, but, it is not necessary to view the first episode in order to appreciate this one.
The episode focuses on the development of the High Gothic cathedrals in Chartres and St. Deny (in France) and the perfection of the High Gothic cathedrals in England after the Norman conquest.

The series then continues, in the next episode, to show the extraordinary contributions that Italian artists made to art and architecture during the Early Renaissance period. The Early Renaissance

I really enjoyed watching this series. I own the DVD set, but, found that Amazon's digital download provides better resolution for HD tv's than a progressive scan image from the 1989 DVD set.
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