A new eight-pound entry in the one-volume history-of-art battle of the titans, this title competes directly with Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1926; 10th ed., 1996), Janson's History of Art (1962; 5th ed., 1995), Hartt's Art: A History (1976; 4th ed. 1993), and Honour and Fleming's The Visual Arts: A History (1982; 4th ed., 1995). Each comes with hundreds of illustrations of wildly varying quality-Stokstad's are mostly color, mostly adequate-and each attempts to combine the factual density requirements of a survey course textbook with attractive writing and narrative. In addition, at least in the recent editions, each aims to be "inclusive," discussing women and minority artists to some degree. Distinguished art historian Stokstad (Univ. of Kansas) and her coauthors, mostly colleagues, have done a creditable job. Acknowledging straight off that students today lack a deep knowledge of cultural history, Stokstad aims to be "user-friendly," and her book comes replete with a computer-like "starter kit" of definitions, explanatory text boxes on techniques, and some very good explicatory line drawings, usually architectural. Of the five competitors, four are published by Abrams and all are priced within five dollars of one another. Gardner is much more column after column of text, with little relief. Hartt, a Renaissance scholar, and Honour and Fleming, specialists in the Baroque, write with personal voices; Stokstad, a medievalist, also has a pleasant style. This reviewer recommends that libraries stock Honour and Fleming for their excellent writing and clear art historical point of view and Stockstad's work, which is well written, achieves a good balance of narrative and facts, and is the most inclusive. One caveat: The review copy of Stokstad had broken from its casing before arrival.-Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib.
Destined to establish itself as a modern classic, this hugely informative, wholly enjoyable global history of art from prehistoric times to the present views art as a fundamental, inextricable vehicle for the human spirit. Although Western visual art and architecture receive the most attention, there is also extensive coverage of India, China, Japan, Africa, Islamic art and Pacific cultures. Few texts so wide-rangingly connect the artistic output of each period to the artists' lives, sources of funding and historical, social and political context. The 1625 stunning illustrations (761 in color) are unrivaled in their adventurous selection and quality by any book of this type. Time lines chart parallel developments across cultures and civilizations; inserts spotlight literary and intellectual trends and artists' techniques. Stokstad, art history professor at the University of Kansas, has produced both a college text and a layperson's guide that is more fun than H.W. Janson's standard History of Art, and more multicultural. (Feb.)