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on January 28, 1997
Gombrich's book has a very specific purpose: he wants to tell the history of art as a continuous story, focusing on Western art and its gradual approach to the visual world. In strong contrast to most other art history texts, Gombrich's book has a thesis, and therefore an argument. In choosing among the various alternates (Janson, Gardner, Stokstad, etc.) it is important to bear this in mind. The size and compression of his book is not its salient feature from a
philosophic standpoint: it is the presence of an authorial voice, and a continuous narrative. Most other survey texts give up the ideal of coherent exposition in favor of a neutral descriptive voice and a fragmented "story" that
continuously interrupts itself in order not to lose any essential historical detail.
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on December 19, 2001
I am currently taking an introductory art history class, and Gombrich's THE STORY OF ART is the textbook. This book was an absolute pleasure to read, as I found myself going beyond the assigned readings. I finished the entire book from beginning to end within the span of two weeks!
Even if you aren't very interested in art history, THE STORY OF ART remains a must read; at worst, you will be entertained, and at best you will gain an entirely new perspective on art. The prose is masterfully written and the analysis he presents is very accessible. He discusses everything from ancient Greek sculpture to Renaissance painting to modern architecture. The reproductions of the artwork in the book are also extremely good (there are several high-quality fold-out pages included, such as one of Leonardo's Last Supper pre-restoration). I was very pleased with both the amount and breadth of coverage he provided.
Even though I haven't read any other introductory art history books, I find it hard to believe that any other book could do the job as well as Gombrich has done it here. I would highly recommend THE STORY OF ART to anyone who wants an art history primer.
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on November 19, 2007
Having already been exposed to art history and criticism, I felt at times that this book was overly simplistic. (It was originally written for "young people" after all...) What was harder for me to appreciate were the frequent passages in which Gombrich gives vent to his own personal opinions (gushing on about Rubens for instance.) He makes a token effort to be objective but his Eurocentric bias toward the superiority of Classically-inspired Renaissance art is clear.

However, as an introduction to Art History and Art Appreciation, you could do a lot worse. Gombrich is easy to read, he states himself clearly, he presents the history of art (in Europe) as a steady evolution of ideas, rather than a compartmentalized series of Eras & Styles as so many academic textbooks do. He selected illustrations that most effectively elucidate his point. Useful as his book is, it would be a mistake to treat him as a final authority on the subject. _The Story of Art_ is merely an INTRODUCTION to art. Once Dr. Gombrich has opened the door for you, you should leave him behind and continue your explorations on your own, or at least with a different guide. Form your own opinions; that's part of the experience of art.

About the Pocket Edition specifically: The text is in the front (printed on very thin "Bible" paper) and the illustrations are in the back. Phaidon has provided two built-in ribbon bookmarks so you can keep your place in both sections. It's an interesting solution for making the book smaller. I can vouch for the fact that it's easy to carry around, since I took it with me on two trips while reading it, but the arrangement does have its drawbacks. Having to flip back & forth to look at the pictures as they are referred to in the text, and having to hold two places simultaneously while reading means that you have to use both hands. I like to read while I eat (yeah, I'm one of THOSE people) but found it was impossible with this edition. If portability and price are your top concerns, then this is the edition to get. Otherwise, shell out the extra $$ for the full-sized version.
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on January 21, 2006
Originally, Dr. Gombrich intended (in the 1940s) for this book to be read by high school students; or as he writes "young people." Since then, The Story of Art became popular and his book mushroomed into several languages and editions. Because his language is non-fussy and non-scholarly, I have recommended this book to many non-artist friends; none of whom could get beyond the first few pages. So the reader may need some art background. But if you want to know why the Egyptians chose to draw as they did, or why Gothic art and architecture looks as it does (or "what's THAT all about?"), then this is the book for you. I have reread the book three times and may reread it one or two times more before I go to that great studio in the sky.
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on July 14, 2001
I must say that this is the best comprehensive art historical book that I have ever come across. It's actually a book that I have been reading more for pleasure than for study, and I recommend it to anyone who is even remotely interested in painting, architecture or any artistic elements. The photos are fantastically sharp and accurately placed near if not next to the corresponding text and in no way is it difficult to read or understand. The author writes as if he were explaining it to the reader for the first time, but it does not feel elementary in any way. An excellent book with fantastic promise. I have learned much with very little effort - the best way to study!!
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on September 9, 1999
One of Gombrich's many virtues is his ability to convey in clear, yet rich prose his depth of understanding and love of art. However, as I rethink my art history survey offerings I feel a need to break away from texts that have such a strong authorial viewpoint as this one. I'd prefer a text that presents a number of interpretations of a single work, such as the one by Laurie Schneider Adams, or a more neutral tone, as in the survey by Stokstad. It is essential that students learn to question what they read. There is a long tradition for art history texts to come across as "Bibles." The prose is so eloquent, and the cultural mastery so impressive that many students leave a course believing that they've learned the "truth" about certain artists, rather than cultivated opinions based upon clusters of available information.
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on February 5, 2004
In my opinion, "The Story of Art" is the best gift for yourself and others. Why?. Because it is one of those few books that allows you to achieve several objectives at the same time... It can introduce the reader to art, or allow him to continue with his studies. It gives him the opportunity of learning, but also entertains and captivates him.
Yes, of course that it is long, and because of that somehow scary the first time you see it. But if you manage to start it, you will find that you will finish it in no time at all. The reason for that is the author, E.H. Gombrich. His prose is fluent, and easy to understand, but what is more important, he doesn't merely enumerate facts: he tries to explain them, setting them in a historical background. And by doing that, compels and engages the reader, making him think about art and its "evolution", and about why the story of art is "A story without end".
The book brings a lot of illustrations regarding the artworks discussed by the author, including several fold-outs that I appreciated enormously. The reproductions allow the reader to "see" what the author tries to explain, and make the book even more dynamic.
Now in its 16th updated edition, this book is already a classic. Maybe the reason for that popularity can be explained by the author. Gombrich's aim was to help others to understand art, from cave painting to postmodern art. He believes that his book is immensely liked by students and art-lovers because "it has made them see how the story of art hangs together".
On the whole, I highly recommend "The story of art" to everybody interested in art. I believe it is exactly what you need :)
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on October 24, 2005
I took an Art Appreciation course my senior year of college and this was the text book that my instructor gave to us. From day one I loved the course and I highly enjoyed reading the book. Dr. Lambertson stood before our class the last day of teaching and told us not to sell our books back because we would regret it later. He swore by this book. He was right too. I was so desperate for money that I sold back my edition of the book and since that day, five years ago, I have kicked myself REPEATEDLY for selling that book back. There was so many things I wanted to look up in it and then remembered that I'd been enough of an idiot to sell back my copy of the book. I'm very, very pleased that Amazon is offering this book up for sale.

The book itself combines the history of the world and art (which makes sense). It shows how history influences art and how art changes over time. The photos and prints in the book are spectacular as well. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about art (or history) and if (like me) you're trying to get someone with artistic talent interested in art history I'd recommend getting this book for them.

I'm buying two copies. One for me and one for my artistically talented sister. Thank you Dr. Lambertson for introducing me to this book.
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on June 8, 2004
About a year ago, I suddenly decided that it was about time I learned something about art history. After reading all the reviews about this book, I decided that this was the book for me. And so it was. I would never have imagined that it could be so entertaining to read about art history. A previous reviewer called this a simplified historical description of art from the perspective of an authoritarian male, white, european. Maybe it is simplified. So what! That's excactly what I needed at the time I bought this book. It has always been quite clear to me that this book was only an introduction to art. Since it was so entertaining I was able to finish it, and I have finally learnt to appreciate art. Because of this my second visit to Louvre in Paris was a lot more fun than my first visit there.
I guess it's true that the author was a white, european male. What does this have to do with anything? The book is mainly about western art, so I don't see why it matters that he's european. And in the history of western art, how many non-white or female artists are there? I guess there are some from the previous century, but that is quite a small part of the book. So the author was a white, european male, like most of the artists in the history of western art.
Some people have pointed to the fact that the book is a bit biased. Well, that is probably one of the things that makes it such an entertaining read. I highly recommend this book if you need an introduction to art.
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on October 20, 2012
Unless you MUST have a small, light edition of "The Story of Art," you will fare much better with the regular 16th edition.


In this "Pocket Edition," the text and illustrations have been separated. The text comes up front, and all the plates are at the back. In my opinion, a terrible idea, mostly because the author refers CONSTANTLY to the plates.

The publishers apparently realized there was a problem with this misorganization, because they supplied two ribbon book-markers -- one to mark your place in the text, and the other to mark your place in the plates.

The result is a study in frustration, trying to keep both markers in place while trying to follow the author's discussion. In my case, updating the markers actually caused me to lose the thread of the discussion.

How much better it is, to have the illustrations printed right alongside the text, which is the way the book has always been printed.

Get the 16th edition and save your money.
22 comments22 of 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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