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The Books that Shaped Art History

From Gombrich and Greenberg to Alpers and Krauss

Richard Shone, John-Paul Stonard


The essential roadmap to the ideas and debates that have formed the history of art, told through the key books published over the course of the 20th century

Also available as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon


Which were the books that shaped art history as it developed in the twentieth century? This pioneering book provides an invaluable roadmap of the field by reassessing the impact of several of the most important works of art history. Each of its sixteen incisive chapters, focusing on a single title, is written by a leading art historian, curator or one of the promising scholars of today. In bringing these cross-generational contributions together, the book presents a varied and invaluable overview of the history of art, told through its seminal texts.

The sixteen books include Nikolaus Pevsner’s gospel of Modernism, Pioneers of the Modern Movement, Alfred Barr’s now legendary monograph on Matisse, E.H. Gombrich’s Art and Illusion, Clement Greenberg’s Art and Culture, which had a seismic impact when it was published in 1961, and Rosalind Krauss’s The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, which introduced structuralist and poststructuralist thinking into art historical study.

Initiated by and prepared under the auspices of The Burlington Magazine, each chapter – with writers including John Elderfield, Boris Groys, Susie Nash and Richard Verdi – analyses a single major book, setting out its premises and argument and mapping the intellectual development of its author, discussing its position within the field of art history, and looking at its significance in the context both of its initial reception and its legacy.

An introduction by John-Paul Stonard explores how art history has been forged by these outstanding contributions, as well as by the dialogues and ruptures between them. Supplementary documentation summarises the achievements of each art historian and provides a detailed publication history of their texts, with suggestions for further reading. Plus over 50 illustrations include rarely seen portraits of the writers and show covers and interior spreads from the original editions of each publication.

Enlivening debates and questioning the very status of art history itself, The Books that Shaped Art History is a concise and brilliant study of the discipline and an invaluable resource for students, teachers, bibliophiles and all those interested in visual culture and its histories.

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'A thrilling account of the history of art in the 20th century … an expertly guided tour along a rather marvellous scenic route'

'A pageant of influential art historians of the twentieth century … if you are keen on art history and like parades, you will love this book … the essays are models of intelligent compression and lively instruction … this fascinating collection is worth reading for many reasons'
RA Magazine

'A wonderful book that will be enjoyed by all who have a deep interest in the practice of art history'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 268 pp

Illustrations: 54

Publication date: 20 July 2017

ISBN: 9780500293027

Contents List

Preface • Introduction • ‘Émile Mâle, L’art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France, 1898’ by Alexandra Gajewski • ‘Bernard Berenson, The Drawings of the Florentine Painters, 1903’ by Carmen C. Bambach • ‘Heinrich Wölfflin, Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe, 1915’ by David Summers • ‘Roger Fry, Cézanne: A Study of His Development, 1927’ by Richard Verdi • ‘Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of the Modern Movement, 1936’ by Colin Amery • ‘Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public, 1951’ by John Elderfield • ‘Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character, 1953’ by Susie Nash • ‘Kenneth Clark, The Nude: A Study of Ideal Art, 1956’ by John-Paul Stonard • ‘E. H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion, 1960’ by Christopher S. Wood • ‘Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture, 1961’ by Boris Groys • ‘Francis Haskell, A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque, 1963’ by Louise Rice • ‘Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy, 1972’ by Paul Hills • ‘T. J. Clark, Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the 1848 Revolution, 1973’ by Alastair Wright • ‘Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century, 1983’ by Mariët Westermann • ‘Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, 1985’ by Anna Lovatt • ‘Hans Belting, Bild und Kult, 1990’ by Jeffrey Hamburger • Notes • Bibliographical essays • Author Biographies

About the Author

Richard Shone is a British art historian and art critic specializing in British modern art.

John-Paul Stonard, writes regularly for Artforum, Times Literary Supplement and the Burlington Magazine.

List of Contributors

Richard Shone