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The Story of Art, 16th Edition Hardcover – April 9, 1995

4.7 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Phaidon Press has produced a much-improved edition of Sir Ernst Gombrich's classic narrative study of art history, which was first published in 1950. Among the many competing introductory texts?the central monuments of which are H.W. Janson's History of Art (Prentice, 1986. 4th. ed.) and Helen Gardner's Art Through the Ages (4th ed. o.p.)?Gombrich's venerable work has inhabited a unique niche, having been created specifically for newcomers to art. As his title indicates, he presents the whole of art history as a chronological narrative. Gombrich's voice is lively, opinionated, and almost conversational, yet his erudition shines through to make a book that is both accessible and informative. His premise, that the love of art, not the love of history, is the appropriate basis for its study is communicated directly with his irrepressible enthusiasm for certain masters and his passionate exasperation with 20th century nonobjective artists. While much of the text is unchanged, the format has been completely redesigned with vastly expanded illustrations, improved captions, better charts and an excellent index. This book belongs on every art-lover's bedside table, and even those libraries owning an earlier edition would not regret adding this refinement of an already first-rate work.?Douglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gombrich's The Story of Art has been a treasured standard in the field, selling more than 4 million copies since its first edition in 1950. Now in its 16th edition and available for the first time in paperback, this comprehensive look at Western art from prehistoric times on up to the present has been completely redesigned and extensively revised and updated. In addition, the illustrations have all been enhanced, and a total of 443 are now in color. Gombrich is more than an authority, he's an advocate, and his love and deep respect for art infuse his invigorating text. In his discussion of twentieth-century art, for instance, Gombrich explains how even the most experimental contemporary art is connected in some way to what has gone before. Gombrich tells the story of art "as the story of a continuous weaving and changing of traditions in which each work refers to the past and points to the future." Gombrich's invaluable history is a veritable celebration of this "living chain." Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press; 16 Sub edition (April 9, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071483355X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714833552
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 28, 1997
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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By Ida Kotyuk on January 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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