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The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern (Annotated Series) Paperback – October 2, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

It's a paradox of American culture. Throughout the country, in every major city, art museums stand as our proudest, most venerated public institutions - the world's great art, there for all to see. Yet for many Americans, the world of "Art" remains inaccessible, lost in a fog of jargon and theories that can make the artwork itself seem hopelessly remote. The Annotated Mona Lisa demystifies art history. It's a brisk, clearly stated survey, from cave painting to conceptual art, that doesn't talk down to its reader and doesn't assume a prior art education. And, most important, it never bores. Dynamic design, with succinct, page-length essays, frequent sidebars, and abundant color illustrations incorporated into the text, make The Annotated Mona Lisa a browser's delight, as well as an authoritative reference that can be read from cover to cover. Sections on ancient and medieval art emphasize context and historical relevance: What kind of people did it take to build the Egyptian pyramids? How has their work influenced the architecture of today? Sections on Renaissance and Baroque art, the nineteenth century, and the modern era touch on all the major figures of the times, while continuing to explain the cultural context out of which the art evolved. A time line at the beginning of each section ties it all together, noting the significant historical events that shaped the art world and the world at large.

About the Author

Carol Strickland has a doctorate in American culture from the University of Michigan. She is the "Christian Science Monitor"'s art critic and contributes feature stories on the arts to the "New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post," and "Art and Antiques." She is the author of The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History of Architecture, "The Illustrated Timeline of Art History," and numerous artists' monographs. Carol lives in New York City and Long Island.
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Product Details

  • Series: Annotated Series (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; 2nd ed. edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0740768727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0740768729
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Judy K. Polhemus VINE VOICE on May 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
"The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern" is more than a crash course, a term used for its catchiness. Actually, the book is a synopsis of art history and provides the lay person concise and brief explanations of history, movements, schools, and individual artists and artwork.

I taught art history for several years at the high school level and relied on Janson's History of Art 7th Ed. and Wood's Art of the Western World: From Ancient Greece to Post-Modernism as my personal instructors. Every night I had to slog through pages of information when all I wanted was something concise and to the point. "The Annotated Mona Lisa" would have served me well.

I found this the other day and popped my forehead (as in V-8 commercials) and asked aloud: Why didn't I use this book for my background? Apparently, I bought it then promptly forgot/misplaced/had little time to use it.

Here's why this book will be a companion for anyone interested in teaching him/herself about art history:

1. Five time categories (ex. Prehistoric through Medieval) with very clear subtitles (ex. Mesopotamia: the Architects)

2. Short explanations per topic.
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Format: Paperback
In such a short book, compared to other Art History books such as Gardner's Art History, etc., one may begin to wonder what this book has omitted. The answer is basically NOTHING. The difference between Gardner's and this book is that this book is a wonderful introduction to anybody appreciative of art but lacks the basic skills at analyzing and appreciating art to the fullest. 1500pg Art History books serve as a wonderful reference but as a poor introduction. Enter "Annotated Mona Lisa" , giving readers an introduction to art combined with attention-grabbing description and prose with the history and background of several thousands of years of art from pre-historic to modern. This book can serve as a study guide to much larger books, especially for those who take college art history classes or the AP Art History class in High School. This is a genuine MUST HAVE for anyone vaguely familiar with the term "art."
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Format: Paperback
It does indeed require a crash course to recount 25,000 years of art history in just under 200 pages. The Annotated Mona Lisa does it well with a few exceptions. Beginning with the title itself, it should be noted that this book details the history of "Western" art only, a distinction that is vital for a holistic understanding of art. Another exception is an occasional departure in chronological order. For example, the inclusion of Art Nouveau architecture in the section on Rococo Art (which is twenty-five pages before Art Nouveau is discussed) disrupts the chronological flow. There are also occasional poor choices of representative artwork. For example, I would not consider City Night to be representative of Georgia O'Keeffe's work. I noticed as well that certain well-known terms that describe art styles or techniques are omitted; an example is "Frontalism" in Egyptian art. Some art movements that I would consider to be significant are also omitted, such as the Pre-Raphaelites. And I must admit I was disheartened to see an outright inaccuracy when the book stated that artist Artemisia Gentileschi accused a fellow pupil of raping her when it is known to have been her teacher she accused.

What the The Annotated Mona Lisa excels at is providing the reader with numerous charts that compare styles that are often confused such as Gothic and Romanesque architecture or Italian Renaissance and Northern Renaissance art. There are also charts that distinguish between artists such as the one that differentiates the style characteristics of several Post-Impressionist artists. The upbeat writing and interesting facts about artists and their work really help to keep the reader engaged as do interesting page designs and more than 300 illustrations, many of them in color.
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I don't know much about art, and I wanted to learn a little bit more. That is the reason why I bought this book. Truth to be told, I was pleasantly surprised when I read it: it teachs you a lot, but it's also entertaining and... FUN TO READ. You end up wanting to read more about art, and from my point of view that's what makes a book successful, disregarding the subject matter.
"The annotated Mona Lisa" allows you to appreciate paintings you have already seen in a new way (you must try to pay attention not only to de color and composition but also to the historical circumstances in which it was painted, and to the meaning hidden in the painting) and introduces you to new ones.
Carol Strickland, in the introduction to this book, tells us that "There is a world of difference between viewing a work of art and really seeing it - the difference between sight and insight". In "The annotated Mona Lisa" she tries to give us an insight into what art is really about, and in my opinion, she has a good deal of success.
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