Friday, April 17, 2009

Name that Style: All about isms in art by Bob Raczka - review

This book looks at stylistic movements in Western art - from the birth of Naturalism in the Renaissance through the twentieth century, ending with Op Art and photorealism.

The conversational narrative and detailed observations that characterize Raczka's earlier books (Here's Looking at Me, Where in the World?) are in this book reduced to a minimum - to the book's detriment. Instead, each style is profiled using a fixed set of questions, with the answers presented as lists, short paragraphs, and bullet points.

The art chosen to illustrate each style is in some cases perfect - van Eyck's "The Arnolfini Portrait" illustrates Naturalism; in others, surprising - Courbet's "The Stone Breakers" is a little-seen painting that is nonetheless a fine choice to illustrate Realism; but sometimes misses the mark - J.M.W. Turner's "Snow Storm" is chosen as an example of a painting in the Romantic style, but unless the viewer is familiar with Turner's other paintings, it will appear more Impressionistic or even abstract.

Fills a gap. However, unless there is a need for a book strictly about artistic styles, libraries would be better served by a more comprehensive art history book for young people, such as Antony Mason's A History of Western Art or The History of Art by Claudio Merlo.

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