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Mirror of the World: A New History of Artby Julian Bell
Synopses & Reviews
With remarkable clarity, Julian Bell tells the story of how art has evolved through the millennia and across the world. He follows the changing trends in the making and significance of art in different cultures, and explains why the art of the day looked and functioned as it did. Key images and objects-some of them familiar works of art; others, less known but equally crucial to the story-act as landmarks on the journey, focal points around which the discussion always centers. Along the way, Bell answers fundamental questions such as "What is art and where does it start?" and "Why do humans make it and how does it serve them?"
Previous histories tended to focus only on the masterpieces of Western art, in the process excluding the work of women or non-Western artists, or else considering developments around the world as separate, unrelated phenomena. Bell's achievement is to take a global perspective, bringing the distinct stories together in one convincing narrative. He draws insightful and inspired connections between different continents and cultures and across the millennia, which results in a rich and seamless introduction to the world of visual creativity.
Hundreds of carefully selected illustrations show how artists from different ages and societies often shared the same formal, technical, and aesthetic concerns, while others took divergent paths when their vision dictated it.
Julian Bell, himself a well-known painter, is the grandson of Vanessa and Clive Bell, key members of the celebrated Bloomsbury group of writers and artists. His books include What is Painting?.
"Bell's guidelines in writing this exuberant, astute and splendidly illustrated history of world art-spanning from the cave paintings of Lascaux through contemporary artists such as Julie Mehretu-are threefold: every work is complemented by a reproduction, the narrative is chronological, and art is viewed as 'a frame within which world history, in all its breadth, is continually reflected back at us.' Bell (500 Self-Portraits; What is Painting?: Representation and Modern Art) is a renowned critic, artist and professor of art history, and son of artist and critic Quentin Bell; he writes of his personal 'pleasure' in creating and studying art. Bell draws fascinating parallels between artistic developments in Western and non-Western art: a discussion of Brancusi highlights the influence of West African carving on his work; one of Borromini's domes is juxtaposed with its near contemporary in the Masjid-e-Shah mosque in Isfahan. The survey is selective, presenting some typically overlooked works, but Bell trains his probing perspective to each. His conclusion is unpretentious: he advises readers to supplement his study with 'finer-grained art histories' and to 'get close to the work itself.' Best, he says, is to make things oneself: 'What happens in art is up to you.' The unique study will appeal to anyone-from the generalist to the scholar-interested in a discriminating and perceptive history of world art. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A vivid and compelling history of human artistic achievements, from the first stone fashioned into a figure by a hunter-gatherer to the latest new media and installation work.
About the Author
Julian Bell, himself a well-known painter, is the grandson of Vanessa and Clive Bell, key members of the celebrated Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists. His books include What is Painting?
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