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Marilyn Stokstad has put together a real masterpiece of art history with her book, Art History. In collaboration with Bradford Collins, and with contributed chapters from Stephen Addiss, Chu-tsing Li, Marylin Rhie and Christopher Roy, this large volume published by noted art publishers Henry N. Abrams, Inc. is deserving of pride of place on any art bookshelf.
The scope of this work is as broad as is the expanse of human history. Indeed, the first chapter begins with a survey of prehistoric art and prehistory. Spanning all the ancient cultures, there are chapters devoted to the art of the ancient Near East, Egypt, the Aegean, Etruscan and Roman art, Christian, Jewish and Byzantine art, Islamic art, the art of India, China, Japan, the Americas and Africa. And from there, it gets complicated!
This book tackles all the issues of art: philosophical considerations (the relationship between art and reality, and the meaning and importance of beauty in art), focus on artists in general and in particular, society's relationship to art, including the role of the patron, the importance of museums, and an investigation that goes behind the phrase, 'I know what I like.'
'Art history, in contrast to art criticism, combines the formal analysis of works of art--concentrating mainly on the visual elements in the work of art--with the study of the works' broad historical context. Art historians draw on biography to learn about artists' lives, social history to understand the economic and political forces shaping artists, their patrons, and their public, and the history of ideas to gain an understanding of the intellectual currents influencing artists' work.'
In addition to presenting a history of art, Stokstad and her contributors also present an introduction to various aspects of art appreciation, without with art history loses much meaning. Each chapter has an explanation of the techniques that were developed and important during the time under examination (for instance, lost wax casting, glassamking and Egyptian faience, Japanese woodblock technique, and Islamic carpet making, among many others, are illustrated in detail to enhance the knowledge and appreciation of the finished art works). Each chapter and time period also has a section entitled Elements of Architecture, which include discussion on elements from pyramids to skyscrapers and much in between.
The text is clear and concise, carefully explaining technical terms when they are used, and then using them sparingly. Every page is a visual feast, with full colour plates of photographs of paintings, sculpture, artists, locations, or architectural examples in great form, as Henry N. Abrams, Inc. publishers are famous for doing. There are literally thousands of illustrations, as there are often many per page; almost no page is without one, and the book is nearly 1200 pages long.
As an aid for those who will use this book for more scholarly purposes, there is an extensive bibliography in the back, in three classifications of listings -- general surveys and art history references, a selected list of art history journals, and then a chapter-specific directory of further reading for each art topic/period. Additionally, it has after the bibliography as Website Directory of Museums, which includes museums in every state in the United States and most major museums around the world. The index includes listings by artist, period, topic, and particular works of art.
This book has been intended to be useful as a text for a course in art appreciation, but also designed to be a joy to read for the casual reader who might not want an academically rigourous presentation. As Stokstad says in her preface, the intention was make this book itself a work of art, and in that task she has succeeded admirably.
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VINE VOICEon January 6, 2014
I've been, along with most of the other Art History professors at my local universities, using Stokstad for many years. It's a well illustrated and understandable text with an excellent overview of Western art. However, the project seems to have run into some difficulty in the last several years, regarding our increasing need to broaden the survey field.

When I was an undergraduate, Survey simply meant learning about Western art and its influences from pre-history through the late twentieth century. Since then, it's become more important for our undergrads to understand that Western art isn't the only tradition worth studying and considering, and that our modern influences lie across the globe rather than in a direct and exclusive line of descent from Kritios Boy. Stokstad and Cothren make a valiant effort to include a balanced selection, but the format resists their attempts. What they've done is to insert non-Western art as chapters sprinkled here and there in the narrative - a narrative which otherwise reads as a relatively smooth progression from ancient to modern. It reads as incredibly disjointed, especially approaching the second half of the book. For example, there is a chapter on African art right in the early modern section that samples medieval (way before what we were studying in the last few weeks) up through postmodern (which we hadn't even approached)! My students found this jarring as they attempted to mentally construct a time line for themselves.

What makes this worse is that the authors make this mini survey of non-Western art a habit that takes place in almost every non-Western chapter. This is true for NONE of the Western chapters and the departure makes it difficult to contextualize or view the timeline in any constructive way. I give exams based on segments of time (e.g. from 1400 to 1800 or thereabouts) and when I have a chapter stuck in there that hits both 1250 and 2012, it throws a wrench into the class structure.

I realize that creating a survey of art from all around the world is a very difficult proposition. It's difficult to teach, even if I select only a few items from each period, not only because of the massively different historical contexts that need to be included, but because understanding the forms and designs of international art is a challenge for beginning students. I appreciate that Stokstad and Cothren are attempting to be more broad. However, they haven't solved the problem of creating a world Art History book. Perhaps the entire format of the basic survey text needs to be re-evaluated; aren't we due for that, since we've basically been repeating the same structure since the 1960's?
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Marilyn Stokstad has put together a real masterpiece of art history with her book, Art History. In collaboration with Bradford Collins, and with contributed chapters from Stephen Addiss, Chu-tsing Li, Marylin Rhie and Christopher Roy, this large volume is deserving of pride of place on any art bookshelf.

The scope of this work is as broad as is the expanse of human history. Indeed, the first chapter begins with a survey of prehistoric art and prehistory. Spanning all the ancient cultures, there are chapters devoted to the art of the ancient Near East, Egypt, the Aegean, Etruscan and Roman art, Christian, Jewish and Byzantine art, Islamic art, the art of India, China, Japan, the Americas and Africa. And from there, it gets complicated!

This book tackles all the issues of art: philosophical considerations (the relationship between art and reality, and the meaning and importance of beauty in art), focus on artists in general and in particular, society's relationship to art, including the role of the patron, the importance of museums, and an investigation that goes behind the phrase, 'I know what I like.'

'Art history, in contrast to art criticism, combines the formal analysis of works of art--concentrating mainly on the visual elements in the work of art--with the study of the works' broad historical context. Art historians draw on biography to learn about artists' lives, social history to understand the economic and political forces shaping artists, their patrons, and their public, and the history of ideas to gain an understanding of the intellectual currents influencing artists' work.'

In addition to presenting a history of art, Stokstad and her contributors also present an introduction to various aspects of art appreciation, without with art history loses much meaning. Each chapter has an explanation of the techniques that were developed and important during the time under examination (for instance, lost wax casting, glassamking and Egyptian faience, Japanese woodblock technique, and Islamic carpet making, among many others, are illustrated in detail to enhance the knowledge and appreciation of the finished art works). Each chapter and time period also has a section entitled Elements of Architecture, which include discussion on elements from pyramids to skyscrapers and much in between.

The text is clear and concise, carefully explaining technical terms when they are used, and then using them sparingly. Every page is a visual feast, with full colour plates of photographs of paintings, sculpture, artists, locations, or architectural examples in great form, as Henry N. Abrams, Inc. publishers are famous for doing. There are literally thousands of illustrations, as there are often many per page; almost no page is without one, and the book is nearly 1200 pages long.

As an aid for those who will use this book for more scholarly purposes, there is an extensive bibliography in the back, in three classifications of listings -- general surveys and art history references, a selected list of art history journals, and then a chapter-specific directory of further reading for each art topic/period. Additionally, it has after the bibliography as Website Directory of Museums, which includes museums in every state in the United States and most major museums around the world. The index includes listings by artist, period, topic, and particular works of art.

This book has been intended to be useful as a text for a course in art appreciation, but also designed to be a joy to read for the casual reader who might not want an academically rigourous presentation. As Stokstad says in her preface, the intention was make this book itself a work of art, and in that task she has succeeded admirably.
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on May 4, 2003
This book is simply wonderful. It is indeed physically ponderous (this 2nd edition is one very, very large book, not two slipcased books as shown in some illustrations). However, its content easily compensates for its considerable bulk. All historical periods of art history are chronicled, with copious illustrations well-produced and nearly all in color. The text is incisive and easy to follow, yet never boring.
I recommend this book to any and all art lovers, whether beginners, advanced students, or just those who desire a comprehensive reference for library or home use. I personally consider this publication a better choice than the otherwise excellent Janson "History of Art" for most readers-- the writing is just more user-friendly, in my opinion (and the content is more inclusive, especially regarding non-Western art).
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on January 29, 1997
Stokstad's book is an excellent teaching tool and resource, as the printed reviews suggest; but it is important to note that it is also the latest product of a series of late 20th century art history texts that have aimed at encyclopedic range. The price that is paid for such vast coverage is narrative purpose: older surveys of
art history, from Vasari to the early 20th century, were attempts to tell the story of art history from certain points of view, and for specific purposes. Art was literally a story: it had beginnings, a middle, and an end, and it had good and bad characters, and a plot.

Never before in history has it seemed a good idea to avoid judging cultures and artworks. The neutrality that texts such as this one achieve is sometimes a worthy corrective to prejudices about other periods and cultures; but it also gives us an emotionally neutral (or uniform) picture of artworks that were never--either in their makers' eyes, or in the judgments of contemporaneous historians--the objects of neutral description. In choosing an art survey text, therefore, it may sometimes make sense to augment a
book like Stokstad's with an historically more normative, and rhetorically more "biased," history such as Ernst Gombrich's "Story of Art." (See my review of the new edition.)
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on September 8, 2005
The new revised 2nd edition Stokstad Art History book is one of the best reviews of art history I've read. It's an excellent resource for students beginning to learn about Art History because it explains terms well and discusses how to view art and why art is necessary today. Furthermore, it spans the entire history of art from the Paleolithic Period to Post-modernism and contemporary art of today. I bought the book for a class and am happy I did; I know I won't be selling it after the semester is over. The only downfall of the text is that it weighs about 12 or 13 pounds, so don't expect to carry it around.
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on September 20, 2004
The $30 version is too good to be true. Although it would appear that you are ordering an "attractively packaged two-volume set," you are actually ordering a study guide for what I am sure is an attractively packaged two-volume set.
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on May 13, 2007
Although large and weighty, the book is beautifully packaged and binded. The quality of the text is certainly worth the cost. Stokstad's Art History briefly covers the history of art from pre-historic to contemporary early 21st century art. The types of art range from medieval to roccoco with several chapters covering non-western art (Chinese, Japanese, African, Pre-Columbian, etc..). In addition to the wide range of material, the author provides a text that is an excellent source of definitions for art terms and a substantial bibiliography. Although it is only a survey of a variety of art, the bibiliography is an excellent source for locating other texts for further reading on the topic of your interest.

Most importantly, the cd-rom that comes with the book contains both a study guide and the images of the excellent illustrations which are found throughout of text.
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on September 5, 2015
DO NOT DOWNLOAD ON KINDLE FOR MAC. Kindle app for Mac is really painful to use, the opposite of ergonomic, terrible. Amazon leaves it deliberately bad to encourage purchase of actual Kindle device, which I hear is also bad.If you download the ebook, you will spend more time manually adjusting the zoom and clicking and dragging to different parts of the page than you will actually spend reading, because it is the only app for Mac that doesn't have trackpad zoom enabled and if you try to scroll to the next paragraph it will instead start turning pages and no matter how much time you waste getting back to a page, you'll keep doing it.
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on August 15, 2002
After taking an art history class, I found this book to be very handy in many ways, although if preparing for an AP test, it does leave some major works of art out. I found using The Annotated Mona Lisa, and Janson's Art History also helped majorly in preparing for the AP test.
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