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American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America Paperback – November 9, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0375703652 ISBN-10: 0375703659 Edition: 1st
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American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America + Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists + The Shock of the New
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Australian-born art critic Robert Hughes, author of the highly acclaimed study of modern art, The Shock of the New has made his home in the United States for the last 20 years. His latest undertaking, which he calls "a love letter to America," is his most massive: a 350-year history of art in America. Published in association with an eight-part PBS series of the same name, this is no scholarly text. With the same voracious wit and opinionated brilliance that have characterized his criticism for Time magazine, this tour-de-force spans three centuries of events, movements, and personalities that have shaped American society and its art. The reproductions are outstanding; 323 out of 365 are in rich, vivid color. Infinitely entertaining and perceptive, this superb book makes readers feel as if they have discovered a truer, hidden America. It seems certain to become one of the most important works in the art-historical canon. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Art critic for Time magazine and an influential author (e.g., The Culture of Complaint, LJ 3/15/93), Hughes has written an indispensable guide, covering the sweep of art and architecture in America from the earliest Spanish works in New Mexico to contemporary art done in the late 1990s. All media are covered, as are the American incarnations of important movements such as Cubism, Impressionism, Minimalism, and more. Though Hughes has strong opinions on the relative importance of most artists or works in their oeuvre, his critiques are well founded, and he never simply omits an artist. A major flaw is the lack of footnotes and a bibliography, though, writes Hughes, this was purposely done in emulation of Kenneth Clark's Civilization and Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man. Ultimately, this is an excellent introduction to art in America for the novice and will provide a handy reference for more advanced researchers. Written as the companion to a PBS series, this title is sure to be in demand. Highly recommended for all libraries.
-?Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 648 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (November 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703652
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Hughes was born in Australia in 1938 and has lived in Europe and the United States since 1964. Since 1970 he has worked in New York as an art critic for Time Magazine. He has twice received the Franklin Jeweer Mather Award for Distinguished Criticism from the College Art Association of America.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Dismissing a critic simply because you disagree with him, even violently disagree with him, is to miss the value a critic has. A critic's role is to spark your own thinking and investigation, to encourage us to formulate our own views and develop our arguments for them more explicitly. Letting a critic supply you with your views or to simply reject him because he doesn't confirm your pre-dispositions is a waste of your own reading time as well as the work the critic put into to his work.
Rejecting a critic's views is fine, if you do it with well-formed argument and facts or for explicit aesthetic views and tastes. The whole purpose of affirmation includes the idea of rejection. Just as accepting everything is to accept nothing, making choices on acceptance includes the statement, "No, not this."
Robert Hughes has strong views and has the talent for stating them forcefully. Whether or not you agree with him is almost beside the point. This book is a wonderful tour of American Art from Colonial times through the mid 1990s.
While I don't want to try and state Mr. Hughes' views for him, my reading of this book tells me that when architecture, painting, and sculpture comes from an artist honestly trying to come to grips with his or her views of the world and our living in it, Mr. Hughes considers that a good thing. Whenever that is compromised in favor of social acceptance or whenever an artistic establishment forms to enforce an orthodoxy and muzzle expression he considers that a bad thing.
He also tends to favor actual skill, facility, and even virtuosity in expression (if not necessarily technique) over posing and demanding acceptance. The artist must be able to communicate to others and win an audience and hold them over time to win the author's admiration.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By M. A Newman VINE VOICE on March 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have been a fan of Robert Hughes since I fist saw the television show "Ths Shock of the New" and also his criticism in Time Magazine. In this book, he takes as his subject the epic of the American artisitc experience. In lesser hands this could be a dull topic, but thanks to Hughes's enthusiasm and interesting takes on American life, this subject becomes quite fascinating indeed.
Hughes begins at the beginning and starts off with a discussion of Spanish colonial art of the old west before moving onto the East coast and the founding fathers of American Art (West Copley, Peale and Stuart). When discussing the paintings Hughes ties it in with the politics of the various periods, the literature and even the music, establishing that art does not exist in a vacuum.
I have seem many of the works discussed in this work and found Hughes's insights inspiring in some instances sending off to look up material on them. The strongest sections deal with aside from the early American artists, Cole's The Way of Empire series, the Eakins, Steiglitz, and Masden Hartley.
Although I rate this book with five stars, I did have one or two problems. I would have thought that he might have examined Sargent's technique more thoroughly. I have always noticed that he seems to have a problem drawing hands.
The most profound disagreement that I have with Hughes is over theRegionalist movement of the 1930s. I am afraid I do not share his view of Benton. Rather than put him in the context of socialist realism and nazi art, I would have thought a more natural point of departure would be the discovery (some might say invention) of an early American aesthetic. Benton, Grant Wood and John Curry were more part of this trend than any of the international movement of totalitarian art.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ian Muldoon on April 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
The first thing to say about this book, and the most important, is that it is a good read. It illuminates its subject matter whereas much writing about art, especially catalogue writing and writing in magazines such as ART FORUM is bad writing. Such bad writing draws attention to itself and is characterised by jargon, obfuscation, and mystification. Mr Hughes is guilty of none of this. Mr Hughes informs elegantly, argues persuasively and entertains amusingly. Art is well served by this elegant and opinionated craftsman. I also admire his tone which seems confidently irreverent. He is a wise debunker without being arrogant. He pays respect where he thinks it is due but refuses to be taken in, unlike me, by the sentimental, overwrought or portentous. As a general reader I found him especially helpful in his analysis of the American icons Andrew Wyeth (whom I'm a sucker for) Thomas Hart Benton, and the illustrator Norman Rockwell. The pre-20th Century sympathetic commentary on such masters as Winslow Homer, whose retrospective at the Metropolitan in New York in 1996 was such a stunning event, is sheer delight to read. But I appreciated too his later chapters on contemporary art where his waggish insights informed by a formidable intelligence and eye never fail to amuse. Brilliant, and such fun! More please.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kristina Sauerer on November 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
For a student of American Studies or anyone interested in American art this book gives a great introduction. It's very readable and the pictures are of great quality. Most interesting are the connections beetween history, religion, culture and art that Robert Hughes draws. They help integrating the American art history into the knowledge the reader might already have about American culture.
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