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Art For Dummies Paperback – September 24, 1999

35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 078-5555551046 ISBN-10: 0764551043 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews Review

What a privilege it is to stroll through thousands of years of magnificent art with the keen-eyed, confident, supremely knowledgeable Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose opinionated, charming prose could make anyone feel like an art-world insider. Whether or not you know an ism from an altarpiece, Hoving will gently grasp your elbow and welcome you to the party, introducing you to everyone who's anyone and encouraging you to partake of the nourishing, sumptuous feast. Like most of the books in the For Dummies series, this one isn't, really. It's a delightful, erudite romp, cleverly and clearly designed to allow the art-curious reader to correct for a nearly universal deficit in American education. There are pictures, of course, including some in color, but this book assumes real love on the part of the reader, who is expected to get off the couch and--with Hoving's excellent guidance--go find the real thing and gaze upon it in the flesh.

Tom the Jargon Slayer offers 14 chapters on the history of Western art, from cave painting to the 1999 Venice Biennale; others cover appreciating art ("the only true enemy of art is good taste"); beginning your own collection ("Dürer is never mushy"); and what to do if your child shows artistic genius ("get out of the way"). He offers readers a priceless tip on how to visit any museum, tells you where the hidden gems are all over the world, describes a mysterious expedition with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to the Hermitage, and sputters bitterly over a shortsighted superior who refused to allow him, then a young curator, to buy a tiny Flemish masterpiece that is now a centerpiece at a rival museum. Although written for adults, this fact-filled book would entertain and educate students from middle school on. --Peggy Moorman

From Library Journal

In this delightful book, Hoving, the witty former director of the Metropolitan Museum, leads readers gently through thousands of years of art history. He spends most of the book historicizing Western art, but he also touches on how to start an art collection, how to evaluate artistically precocious children, how to visit museums (stop first, he says, at the postcard stand in the bookstore), and where to go to see art. His breathless enthusiasm is avuncular, scholarly, and quite infectiousAan attitude that happily precludes condescension. He urges readers not to worry about contemporary "isms" and instead to pay attention to art that "makes the blood rush faster." He also provides juicy biographical information about major artists: Rembrandt was a "thoroughly disreputable" character, D?rer "arrogant," Hogarth a "full-time curmudgeon." He even suggests CDs to listen to while watching the light show at Giza. The sole drawbacks are the insulting series title (for dummies this isn't) and the collection of pithy, puerile cartoons that epigrammatically open each chapter. A terrific book for students, travelers, tyros, and old hands alike, this is highly recommended for all libraries.ADouglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L., CA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (September 24, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764551043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764551048
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

156 of 172 people found the following review helpful By Susan E. Wood on January 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I give Art for Dummies one star for its one good piece of advice: to immerse yourself in art, to rely on your own eyes rather than on the opinions of others, and to go look at original works, rather than photographs, whenever possible. That's what I've told my Art History students for years. However, IDG Books is aggressively marketing this manual for use as a college textbook or a supplemental reading assignment, and the thought of putting it into the hands of undergraduates, especially intro.-level students, makes my blood run cold. A number of reviewers have commented on the lack of adequate illustrations. I might add that not only are they few, grainy, and postage-stamp size, but a lot of them are printed backward. What really bothers me, though, is the number of careless errors in the text. I'm not talking here about matters of opinion or interpretation, but of documented fact. On Page 5, there is a section with the heading "The Temple of Apollo at Olympia." The temple at Olympia was dedicated to Zeus, not Apollo, although Apollo appears on the sculptural decoration of the pediment. There's a really important difference in Greek religion between the supreme god of Olympus and one of his sons! And on page 48, we learn that " . . . while the Parthenon was being completed, other grandiose artistic achievements were happening. One was the invention of lost-wax bronze casting . . . The sculptor Polykleitos is probably responsible for this method . . . " BULLS**T! Greek historians credit the invention of lost-wax casting to two craftsmen on the island of Samos who lived at least a century earlier than Polykleitos, but Egyptians and Mesopotamians had mastered this technique even earlier.Read more ›
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Reading "Art for Dummies" was an exciting experience but also so frustrating that on occasion I almost sent the book flying towards the wall. On the plus side: chronological layout, even-handed treatment of different periods and techniques, and Mr. Hoving's obvious and infectious love of art.
Which leads us into the central irony of the book. Mr. Hoving describes many art works much better than we can see them. Nothing is so frustrating as to have him rhapsodize about an art work which is rendered in postage-stamp-sized black and white in the book, its salient features almost invisible, even under my Bausch & Lomb magnifying glass. This happened far more than it ought to (once would have been too much, of course). The book was limited in its use of color plates and the black-and-white reproductions tended to be small, small, small.
The "For Dummies" folks should have upped the retail price another ten bucks and put in some serious color plating or perhaps done a multi-volume work: "Impressionism for Dummies," "Modern Art for Dummies," you get the idea. As it is, I can't give the book a true "thumbs up." It's a pity, because even with the minor factual errors professionals have spotted it's quite a well written book. It just isn't nearly visible enough.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Michel Fithian on November 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read a couple of reviews from readers of Art For Dummies complaining that it doesn't have enough illustrations either black or white or in color. I agree. But the Dummies book was never intended to be a "coffee-table" art book. One solution is to get Sister Wendy's 1000 Masterpieces (which illustrates almost every painting Hoving mentions.) This way you get the professional "insider" take from Hoving, the wonderful excited amateur take from Sister Wendy and a whole bunch of illustrations. By the way I peg Hoving's erudite book at 5 out of 5. Mike Fithian
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra D. on December 6, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is written in a very friendly style that makes art accessible and does not talk down to the reader (who may be new to art concepts and perhaps intimidated by entering this brave new world). Hoving tells us to 'saturate' ourselves in art by visiting museums and looking at lots and lots of art; that way he says you can develop your eye for the good stuff, and trust that you will indeed recognize the good stuff when you see it.
Unfortunately (but understandably because this is meant to be an inexpensive, accessible introductory book), there are many many descriptions of important works through the ages, but only a very few color plates that illustrate them, and a few more black and white photographs.
It's a bit hard to 'saturate' yourself in a piece of art based on a description in words - you know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words! However, there's a simple and enjoyable remedy. I recommend that you buy the glorious, lush History of Art (5th edition, revised)by Janson, and use that as a companion piece while reading Hoving's Art for Dummies. Many of the works (and just about all of the artists) mentioned by Hoving are represented in the Janson book, which is full of color plates. Hoving's book is more readable, but Janson's book will bring the work alive! It's a hardcover book that comes in a box with a big satin ribbon. I gave it to myself for Christmas (and while cramming for an upcoming appearance as a contestant on Jeopardy!)
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