Customer Reviews: Art: Over 2,500 Works from Cave to Contemporary
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on December 11, 2010
I downgrade this book primarily because its title strikes me as false advertising. Yes, it includes over 2500 color illustrations spread over 600 10-by-12-inch pages, but these are mostly very small images that do not allow their true appreciation as works of art. This is not an art book per se but a comprehensive historical reference work.

The vast majority of the volume is devoted to chronological listings of major artists. Individual painters and sculptors are given anywhere from a sixth of a page to a full page for a brief biography, a description of their milieu, and from one to a handful of photos of representative works. Occasional two-page spreads give readers a closer look at a particularly important piece, such as a Rembrandt self-portrait.

The book presents a good but brief introduction to art appreciation that illustrates the various things one must consider when evaluating artworks, such as subject, composition, perspective, light, shade, medium, color, and texture. There is a timeline at the beginning of each of the six periods of art that the book encompasses: before 1400, the 15th and 16th centuries, the 17th and 18th centuries, the 19th century, the early 20th century, and after 1945. These periods are further broken down into the predominant schools of the era. A glossary and index are included at the end.

This is by no means a bad book. As with all Dorling Kindersley titles, it is authoritatively written, and production values are superb. But understand what you are getting: a reference rather than an art book. On the other hand, if you want a beautiful, well-made, comprehensive book of art, I recommend "The Art Museum" by Phaidon Press, a 1,000-page oversized tome (approximately 19 x 14 x 3 inches) that weighs in at nearly 20 pounds and presents more than 2,500 carefully-selected artworks. It will cost you about $100, but your coffee table will thank you.
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on November 25, 2013
Art: Over 2,500 Works vs. The Art Museum

I purchased both "Art: Over 2,500 Works from Cave to Contemporary" (hereby referred to as "Art") from DK Publishing and "The Art Museum" from Phaidon Press, and found them to be very different books. In summary, if you are looking for a reference book, get "Art;" if you are looking for a visual guide, get "The Art Museum." If you are just looking for a single art book, get "Art."

If you drop "Art" at 7lbs., you won't necessarily bend the corners of the cover, and you can kind of awkwardly carry the book in your arms or in your lap. With "The Art Museum" at 18lbs., you will most certainly bend the corners of the cover if you do drop it, and you will need to read this book on a large, clear surface.

The paper of the pages of "Art" almost feel twice as thick of "The Art Museum," with "Art" having more of a glossy finish, while "The Art Museum" is more of a matte finish. This makes the pictures of "The Art Museum" a little easier to look at, at the cost of durability. Because the weight of the paper in "Art," this seems a much more hardy book. With "The Art Museum," I have to be extremely careful that I do not tear or crease the pages as I leaf through the book.

Hands-down, "The Art Museum" has done a much better job in reproducing the original colors of the artworks. "Art's" pictures, when comparing the same paintings, seem washed-out and under-saturated. And as written by other reviewers, without a doubt, the pictures in "Art" are far too small to be of any real aesthetic use. The large format of "The Art Museum" allows pictures to be seen in far more detail than in "Art," as "The Art Museum's pictures are generally four times as large as those found in "Art." But there is at least one place where you can see even higher resolution pictures without visiting the museum: The Internet (see Conclusion, below).

"Art" is a better book for the layman, as specific techniques of artists and interesting points of a piece of art are highlighted and described visually, while "The Art Museum" assumes that you already know these things, or describes them only in text. For example, in Hans Holbein the Younger's "The Ambassadors," "The Art Museum" tells you that it uses anamorphosis, without telling you what anamorphosis is; "Art" describes the technique. Additionally, "Art" uses callouts to point to a place of interest in a work of art, rather than in plain text as found in, "The Art Museum."

"Art" does several other things well that "The Art Museum" does not. "Art" has a timeline describing each period of history, so you can see when the Baroque period lined with the Qing Dynasty, giving you a more global view of art. "Art" also breaks down each period into genres and sub-genres, like Baroque on the left margins, and Dutch Baroque or French Baroque on the right margins.

"The Art Museum" lays out each genre of art into rooms like a museum, and generally, the historical description of the genre is superior of what is found in "Art." However, the font used by "The Art Museum" bothers me quite a bit, as sometimes there seems to be not enough space after a period, so it looks like a run-on sentence. If you're just looking to browse, "The Art Museum" may be fine; if you're looking to see how each period coincides with the others and understand how the genres and sub-genres are classified, "Art" is superior.

Neither book does a super great job of selecting the masterpieces of every artist, as they do tend to miss some obvious choices, as stated in other reviews. I am more disappointed in "The Art Museum," because with being "unrestricted by the constraints of physical space," I am appalled when I see masterpieces and artists in "Art" that are not included in "The Art Museum," as the latter is billed to be more comprehensive. This is where "The Art Museum" fails me the most. For example:

1) In "The Art Museum," Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece, "Girl with a Pearl Earring," is not even mentioned, while it is in "Art."
2) In "The Art Museum," there is no mention of Frans Hals, where he is described in "Art."
3) In "Art," not a single one of Claude Monet's landscape "Water Lilies" are shown or mentioned, which I found extremely odd, but will give "Art" more of a pass because it is one-fourth the volume of "The Art Museum," and "Art" does have "The Water Lilly Pond."

Both books are heavy on Western art, light on most anything else. "Art" has about six pages devoted to Chinese art. "The Art Museum" has twenty pages but also include Japanese and Korean art. It should be noted that Chinese art history spans roughly 4,000 years, and only gets about 1-2% coverage in either book.

Neither "Art: Over 2,500 Works from Cave to Contemporary" nor "The Art Museum" are bad books. Both will work fine on your coffee table. "The Art Museum," with its massive size, will be more impressive, though "Art" is a more useful piece of work. If you want something pretty, get "The Art Museum." If you want something utilitarian, get "Art." This is assuming that the price doesn't matter to you.

If you do get "Art," the recommendation is to have a tablet (Windows 8, iPad) close by, so that you can look up the pictures in finer detail on Bing Images or Google Images, which, in many cases, will be at a higher quality than in a published book.

In conclusion, I've found that the best art book in the world is still, without a doubt, Wikipedia.
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on December 24, 2008
We were impressed by Phaidon's '30,000 years of art'. Then our colleague brought this DK publication to our attention. WOW! DK known for their quick summary books and children education material went world class with this tome. A large handsome book which definitively covers the span of art from cave works to contemporary.

A beginning section details how artists use different means and media to bring their inspirations to fruition.

Then the bulk of the book presents each artistic movement - from renaissance to impressionism to pop and abstract (and so much more). Techniques, styles, influences. Interesting anectdotes and stories along with characteristics of individual themes.

We enjoyed the accompanying graphics, comparasins, overlays, and detailed close-ups.

More than 2500 beautifully reproduced works by more than 700 artists in all the different media.

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life" (Picasso).... Indeed this book shall refresh you after a grey listless day malaise.

A very accessible and engaging comprehensive book.. . . ... An art joy not to be passed up! An essential global gallery for your art book collection.
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on February 22, 2009
About the only thing I can say in the negative about this compendium is that space constraints allow only a few large reproductions. Older eyes need a magnifying glass to get much more than a brief glance at too many of the images. Those of us who are familiar with most of these artworks will be a little disappointed, but pleased to see familiar faces, no matter how small. I only am concerned for the audience who has no prior art appreciation background, that their initial introduction to so many of these pieces has to be so small. However, in fairness, to properly present this art, the book would have had to cost easily $200-300, instead of the reasonable $40. Kudos for the choices and write-up, all the same.
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on December 26, 2008
This book is a great comprehensive compilation spanning over every major period in art throughout the world. Though mostly illustrative it provides a decent amount of interesting information on individual artists, styles, and selected works of art. A few of the most famous paintings are specially featured and looked at in depth both artistically and historically. The price is fantastic for such a beautiful and resourceful book.
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on December 28, 2008
The title says it all. This book is a visual treat. It covers art from the prehistoric age to contemporary pieces. Although it's is billed as a visual guide, background information about the time periods and artistic movements are given throughout. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in art. It's a stunning compilation! The Amazon price is also a bonus. I've seen this book priced as high as $50 on other sites as well as retail book stores.
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on February 24, 2009
Art: Over 2,500 Works from Cave to Contemporary is a weighty tome full of gorgeous full-color art and great information on the artists, art interpretation, methods, and the history behind the art. I purchased it to use for homeschooling purposes (my kids love it), but have spent my own "down" time perusing and enjoying this book. We all need art in our lives!
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on March 9, 2016
This is not a book for those who just want to see full page paintings with descriptions. However this is the book you need to learn art, movements, the most important paintings, what the author meant with it and fully illustrated and a lot more stuff about art. Once you read it you wont look at art the same way and feel comfortable talking with experts. FYI this is not a pocket book, its big, heavy and colorful.
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on December 10, 2012
I have read alot of art books but this one takes the cake! lots of color reproductions of many masterpieces. very educational and specific. I have seen art in this book I have never ever seen before, it is an exciting journey of discovery in the world of Art. forget television, this is a real entertaining and exciting experience of wonder. I love this book, I highly recommend it.
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on July 11, 2015
I agree with the reviewers who took issue with the size of the illustrations. As a weighty, illustrated coffee-table book it is useless since you cannot see the details in the artworks that are the subject of commentary in the text. Nonetheless, ART is a comprehensive global history of art in a field flooded with works that concentrate on Western art. Zaczek's text, for that reason alone, is an excellent history of art.
Nota bene: This is a very heavy book. Don't plan on carrying it with you anywhere.
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