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The History of Western Art (Art Essentials)

Janetta Rebold Benton


A concise, reader-friendly illustrated survey of Western art and architecture from prehistory to the present day

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Acknowledging how architecture, painting, sculpture and the decorative arts reflect the culture and society of their time, this book in the Art Essentials series invites the reader to experience and appreciate the entirety of Western art from prehistory to today.

Focusing on the ‘history’ in art history, each of the twelve chapters opens with a question to ponder, followed by a summary of the major historical developments of the period, touching on social structure, political organization, migration, race, religious beliefs, scientific advances and customs. An exploration of these themes in the visual arts reveals how architecture, sculpture and painting simultaneously shape, reflect, and document the culture of the time and place they were created. A secondary focus explores the constantly evolving aesthetic preferences that swing between naturalism and abstraction, with each era and style either rebelling against the previous or seeking to improve it. Antecedents and outside influences are also discussed.

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'As well as providing perceptive comments on key individual works of art and architecture, Janetta Rebold Benton gives us a very precise understanding of their historical contexts'
Richard Cork

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 21.6 x 13.8 cm

Extent: 176 pp

Publication date: 28 October 2022

ISBN: 9780500296653

Contents List


Part One Prehistoric through ancient Roman art
Chapter 1. Antecedents of the Western Tradition: Prehistoric, Mesopotamian and Egyptian art
Chapter 2. Aegean and Greek art
Chapter 3. Etruscan and Roman art

Part Two Early Christian through medieval art
Chapter 4. Early Christian and Byzantine art
Chapter 5. Early Medieval and Romanesque art
Chapter 6. Gothic art

Part Three Renaissance through Neoclassical art
Chapter 7. Renaissance and Mannerist art
Chapter 8. 17th-century Baroque art
Chapter 9. 18th-century Rococo and Neoclassical art

Part Four Romanticism to today
Chapter 10. Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
Chapter 11. Earlier 20th-century art
Chapter 12. Later 20th- & early 21st-century art

About the Author

Janetta Rebold Benton is the Distinguished Professor of Art History at Pace University, New York, and the author of several books and articles on art including How to Understand Art in the Art Essentials series (Thames & Hudson, 2021). She is the recipient of two Fulbright Scholar Awards as Visiting Professor (China 2018; Russia 2012), and lectures at the Smithsonian Institution, 92nd Street Y, and previously at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.