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How to Understand Art (Art Essentials)

Janetta Rebold Benton


A clear and concise overview of the fundamentals shared by visual arts across the globe, enabling the reader to think carefully, inquisitively and critically about art


The visual arts are intellectual, emotional and pleasurable, but they may also confound. How to Understand Art seeks to maximize your experience when looking at art by strengthening your ability to comprehend and evaluate art.

With visual examples drawn from around the globe, Janetta Rebold Benton presents a multitude of ideas to enhance seeing, interpreting and enjoying art. Benton explores how artists have used the basic elements of art and experimented with materials and techniques. Why artists work in particular styles and depict certain subjects is explained, as well as the purpose and meaning of those subjects. A section devoted to six influential artists offers fascinating insights into a variety of creative environments and reveals six very different artistic paths.

This indispensable guide to art history encourages questions and discussion, especially in light of current debates. If you want to understand art and only have time to read one book, this should be it.

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'Janetta Rebold Benton’s joyous, authoritative and sometimes startling book is your new deep dive into visual art'
Bob and Roberta Smith

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 21.6 x 13.8 cm

Extent: 176 pp

Illustrations: 111

Publication date: 7 October 2021

ISBN: 9780500295830

Contents List

1. How to Look at Art
2. Experiencing, Analysing and Appreciating Art
3. Materials and Techniques
4. But What Does It Mean?
5. Six Special Artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol

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.