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Art Unpacked

50 Works of Art: Uncovered, Explored, Explained

Matthew Wilson


A down-to-earth, visual guidebook that shows how to ‘read’, understand and get the most out of art

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For beginners, art history might seem a daunting subject with complex rules and impenetrable technical language. Even for more seasoned art lovers the question of how to think about art is a perennial riddle. Art Unpacked is the perfect resource for both audiences: an engaging, visual primer for the general reader, as well as educators. Designed like an instruction manual, fifty key artworks from around the world are deconstructed with pithy explanations, diagrams and close-ups, in order to reveal the elements that make up a masterpiece.

Dating from the earliest times to the present, the artworks under analysis are drawn from many cultures, and cover all forms of visual media including: drawing, illustration, photography, prints and sculpture. Matthew Wilson’s simplicity of approach, using established art historical methods, enables the reader to discover the fundamentals of art history, from considerations of function, historical context, iconography and artists’ experience, to broader issues of identity including feminism, gender and postcolonialism. Whether it’s the mask of Tutankhamun or Dorothea Lange’s photograph of Migrant Mother, Hokusai’s Great Wave or Kara Walker’s Gone, each image is dissected on the page in a no-nonsense style, with explanatory notes detailing artists’ sources of inspiration, associated styles and movements, plus any relevant quotes, related visuals and other contextual and issue-led information with keywords for handy cross-referencing. The resulting book is a dynamic, visual resource that will inspire and spark enjoyment of art in all its forms.

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 27.0 x 22.6 cm

Extent: 240 pp

Illustrations: 850

Publication date: 12 October 2023

ISBN: 9780500025673

Contents List

Introduction: How Art Works
1. The Roots of Art: 30,000 BCE to 1399 CE
2. The Growth of Knowledge: 1400–1599
3. The Expansion of Vision: 1600–1799
4. The Modern World: 1800–1945
5. New Practices and Beyond: 1945–onwards

About the Author

Matthew Wilson is an art historian, educator and writer. He has written
for numerous publications and media on art and culture, and is an examination specialist in History of Art. He is the author of Symbols in Art (Art Essentials series, 2020) and The Hidden Language of Symbols (2022), both published by Thames & Hudson.