For those who've enjoyed the original, the good news is that the new edition of The Story of Painting
has grown by more than 300 pages of photographs--magnified close-ups of details from nearly half the 450 paintings in the book. Fauvist paint strokes become mighty slabs; sparkling light on a Dutch still life is revealed as a series of tiny dots; the cheeks of a young man in an Italian Renaissance portrait betray a touch of five o'clock shadow. This kind of close looking is seductive, and it's an important part of Sister Wendy's direct, unpretentious approach to art.
As a history of painting, Sister Wendy's book has its strong points (works with religious or spiritual themes and those that lend themselves to psychological interpretation) as well as its lapses (a very skimpy discussion of Cubism and inadequate treatment of works from the late 20th century). Even the title is a bit of a misnomer. The painting in question is purely Western; there is nothing here about Indian or Persian miniatures, or the great tradition of Chinese landscapes.
But what Sister Wendy alone offers are vivid, personal interpretations that come from a deep well of emotional sympathy with works of art. Who else would notice the way the bagpiper in The Wedding Feast by Pieter Breughel "stares at the porridge with the longing of the truly hungry"? Who else would point out how Venus--the "older woman" pleading with "virile" Adonis not to go off to war in Titian's "Venus and Adonis"--shows us "her superb back and buttocks, beguilingly rounded, full of promise." Rather than portraying Western art as the dutiful production of "masterpieces," she revels in the physicality of paint and the variety of human experience these works represent. --Cathy Curtis
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
YA-Sister Wendy, well known in Britain for her BBC series on art history, has produced this exhaustive overview of Western painting. Nearly every development from the Lascaux Cave painters up to the "maze of contemporary artistic experience" is represented, although the main emphasis is placed on the last 800 years. The material is presented in chronological order, and grouped into chapters by trends or movements. A typical chapter includes several of the period's leaders, a few of their most famous works, and supporting material arranged in attractive, eye-catching displays. Over 400 beautiful, full-color reproductions appear; they are often augmented with closeups of particular sections and highlighted portions. Vignettes about the artists' lives, their favorite subjects, and their patrons enliven each selection. Politics, religious beliefs, and other factors that influence the painters are briefly summarized. Insights into art production, special techniques, symbolism, and samples of parallel trends in sculpture, architecture, and in later years, photography, broaden the scope of the book. The writing style is straightforward but lively, neither talking down to readers nor resorting to arcane art-speak. YAs interested in a beginner's course on art history will find this book satisfying.Carolyn E. Gecan, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.