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The Story of Art

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  350,296 ratings  ·  1,074 reviews
The Story of Art, one of the most famous and popular books on art ever written, has been a world bestseller for over four decades. Attracted by the simplicity and clarity of his writing, readers of all ages and backgrounds have found in Professor Gombrich a true master, and one who combines knowledge and wisdom with a unique gift for communicating his deep love of the subj ...more
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published April 9th 1995 by Phaidon Press (first published 1950)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  350,296 ratings  ·  1,074 reviews

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Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reflecting on my reading year 2016, I came to think of books that have meant a lot to me over the past decades, and the first one that came to my mind was Gombrich’s excellent introduction to art history.

I will have to go back twenty years, half my life, to the year 1996. I am twenty years old, and just about to discover the pleasurable adventure called university. For Christmas, I receive a much longed-for gift card to buy books that “will help me in my studies”, and I stand in a bookstore, on
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Story of Art, Ernst Hans Gombrich (1909 - 2001)

The Story of Art, by E. H. Gombrich, is a survey of the history of art from ancient times to the modern era. First published in 1950 by Phaidon, the book is widely regarded both as a seminal work of criticism and as one of the most accessible introductions to the visual arts.

The book is divided into an introduction, 27 chapters each dealing with a defined time period of art history within one or several cultural/geographic contexts, and a concl
This work is essential reading from a very great expert in Art, with a capital A.
Gombrich knows how to captivate his reader and explain concretely without getting lost in details all the artistic evolutions over the centuries and render them in their context for an uninitiated readership.
If needed only one book on the history of Art, it would be this one.
May 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
This book was perfect. For someone like myself who (now) has a little knowledge of Art (the capital letter here is deliberate) and some sense of history -- but who has big gaps and oceans of ignorance about the topic -- this book was perfect. It is mature, serious, to the point, absolutely free of jargon, sure, insightful -- always interesting, never pedantic -- and not eccentric in the least. Gombrich covers all the major artists and the movements they represent, and ties them together with cla ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The Story of Art is a handy little survey of art history, primarily but not exclusively western art, from cave paintings and primitive sculptures to modern architecture and pop art. It is 500 pages of text and that many pages of well synchronized color plates in a smart pocket edition by Phaidon. Twenty-eight chapters, mostly quite brief, but each a skillful, thoughtful rippling of the surface, with hints of depth and well-defined currents moving quickly and sure footedly through the eras and ad ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Sep 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Gombrich's Story of Art is a great survey (western-oriented however) of art for those who wish to know the big names and get familiar with some of the more common works. He covers all the various periods in a sufficient amount of detail without sounding pedantic or academic which is a challenge when explaining art history. I would just lament the lack of information about art in China, India,. S America and of course Africa, but that is kind of how Europeans have always viewed art, isn't it.
It r
Roy Lotz
I should preface everything I say with a general caveat: I am a novice in the world of art, which is the reason I picked up this book in the first place. Although I often drew as a child, I was more interested in schematic, technical drawings than anything you could call ‘art’. And, despite my keen appreciation of music and fiction, I’ve always had the visual equivalent of a ‘tin ear’. I could stand in front of a masterpiece and be more interested in what I just ate for lunch.

So with that sham
John David
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Just a dozen or so pages into this book, I knew that it was one I wish I would have had access to when I was first seriously exposed to art. While in many respects, it is a conservative textbook (being first published in 1950), it is fundamentally meant for someone who has little to no previous formal contact with art history. Of course, if you have some, this can make you seriously engage some of your previously held assumptions about what you like and why you like it, but I got the distinct im ...more
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
The title of this book should be "The Story of Western Art," because that is what 95% of this book is. Western Art. The "Primitive Art," "Looking Eastwards" and "Modernism" section are an insult and should have been left out of the text along with his random snide comments.

Othewise, this makes a nice commentary on Western Art. It's enthusiastic and reads like a "story."
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent introduction to the history of European art. Accessible and great for building a narrative timeline.
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m speechless!
This is one of the deepest theoretically histories of art I have read. I feel like I was walking naked in museum before reading it.
Amazing book!!!
Daniel Clausen
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-of-2020
The story of art is also, in itself, a work of art.
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a thick and tremendously heavy book, but only physically heavy, and Gombrich is far from thick in his treatment of art down the ages. Read it lying face-down on the floor. Use it as a door-stop.

The reproductions are exquisite in colour and detail, and of course it can be dipped into at leisure and as the mood takes. The Italian Renaissance is comprehensively covered.

I wanted to buy this book several years ago but thought £25 was a bit steep, then found it last year on sale in Central Lon
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This well-composed book was a pleasure to read. And as far as introducing the history of art, it is exactly what I was looking for; beautiful photographs, lucid descriptions, no jargon, no pretension. I recommend that you read the short preface and first chapter, and I bet that you won’t stop there.

The book’s 600 pages contain at least as many photographs, mostly of paintings, and about half of those figures are full-page (including a few fold-outs [ooh la la:]). The text is written simply – wit
Beth Shapeero
May 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
The Storey of Art

E. M. Gombrich

I was attracted to this beautiful little book in Waterstones; its wafer thin, smooth bible pages, section of over 400 rich colour plates and stylish, minimal cover design. I was also feeling a pang of guilt for not shopping in bookshops anymore because Amazon is so easy and cheap. Walking through a bookstore, perusing books and judging them by there covers, is a real pleasure and one we will be denied access to as everybody shops online, I am pretty sure we will se
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is the best story of art ever told.
I devoured the book years ago, when studying at the Art Academy.
for those who are not into art, or think they are not interested in will make you love it!
and it will teach you from the very beginning how to see "the mind" of the artist in the creation..
highly recommended
sirius proserpine
the sexual tension between this book being aggressively christian and the overuse of “gay” as an adjective 😫😩
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I thumbed through a much older (perhaps first) edition of this book when I was away from home and looking for something to read. I was immediately hooked by Gombrich's enthusiastic writing. When I returned home, I was extremely pleased to find that the latest edition was lavishly illustrated and updated to reflect more recent times.

In my opinion, the book is fabulously readable for two reasons: Every piece of art mentioned is shown in the book beside the text and the author avoids "pretentious
Tim Murray
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
It would be no exaggeration to say that this book changed my life. Before I read this I thought that most art was overpriced garbage. Especially modern art. By going through the history of art and saying how one era shaped the next and also why art is important to human development really helped me to 'get' art.

Since reading this book I have taken up painting myself as well as regularly going to art galleries and museums.

Having said all this, the book can be a bit dry sometimes and you can feel
Sarah Shahid
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
It is one of the amazing books I have ever read. It is really comprehensive, I wish it was longer and full of more details.
Miquel Reina
This book is an essential. A book that can't miss on any shelf of an art historian, an architect or designer, and in general anyone interested, lover or influenced by Art. The Story of Art is an ambitious book, which traces the history of mankind with its artistic development, whether painting, sculpture or other plastic forms. It's a reference book rather than a reading one but it's a jewel that must have nearer you.

Spanish version:
Éste libro es un esencial. Un libro que no puede faltar en nin
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm pretty torn about what rating to give this book. It is the o.g. primer on art history, so reading it gave me insight into the thought processes of some of my more old-school college professors. It also cleared up some of my shameful misconceptions around when certain artists were active (Titian 😳). The prose is very simple and engaging, and I looked forward to reading this book every day. However, I dread to imagine someone reading this in 2020 without a gargantuan grain of salt. Right off t ...more
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For a few semesters, art history was my minor in university. I did not know a lot about art, but I was interested and it seemed fun. If only my courses were as good as this, I would not have given up on this field of study.

Without being condescending or snobby (my main problem with my former teachers and some fellow students), Gombrich writes about art history in a way, that is very exciting and fascinating for the uneducated reader (i.e. me).

The art prints in my edition are extremely beautiful.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
A great book for learning and understanding art. This book was interesting to me because I worked for a time at an art gallery. I learned a lot then about art appreciation, and learned more from this book. The text is very readable and the pictures are beautiful. Great coffee table book =)
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I DID. I’VE FINISHED IT. Ok so it was very, very, VERY interesting. I’ve learned so much and have a now a very global comprehension of the art’s development throughout history. It’s well written and very easy to read. It’s quite a long book but it covers most of the basics in one read so it’s very much worth it. Would totally recommend
Michael Scott
I bought The Story of Art while about to leave Brugge, after a long week-end that was supremely friendly and quite artsy. I started reading this book as soon as I sat down in the train and was enchanted by it until the last page.

Gombrich's The Story of Art is a masterful story of the main works and styles of art, from 30,000 BC until the 20th century. (The 16th edition includes material from up to around the late 1980s, in terms of art critique, and early 1970s, in terms of artworks.) The book
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
before the reveiw, a little pretext, i love art history, NPR and David Sedaris, so the fact the i read this book basically cover to cover isn't too surprising. it was clear and consise and had so many pictures (faomous and obsecure) i must have read the chapter on impressionism and post impressionism 40 times and the section and mannerism at least half that. but if your not interested, this won't read like fiction, or any kind of even remotely intersting text. to some its like reading the dicton ...more
Apr 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I kept expecting this book to bog down and get boring and it never did, even when it got into modern art (which I now feel like I have a better grasp of). Gombrich isn't just an art historian,he's like a psychologist, I felt like I had a better understanding of why people were making all this funky contemporary art; even if I still don't necessary like or understand it, at least I kind of feel I see where it's coming from. Really a great book if you want a basic intro to the history of art. ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The classic introduction to 'Western' art, beginning with its classical origins in ancient Egypt, and casting light on the social, economic, political, cultural and technological influences from which it arose in each time and place

I was fascinated from the start, and a relatively considerable proportion of Gombrich's wisdom has stayed with me. Naturally the presumption to offer a monolithic story of art is absurd - but this particular story is well worth sharing.
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: artists, architects, designers
This is the most complete book about The History of Art. It talks about all kinds of artistic expressions and it's organized by period of time. It contains a lot of pictures of famous paintings, sculptures, buildings, of anything related to art. It was the first book I bought when I entered architecture graduation college. It helped me a lot. ...more
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Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, OM, CBE (30 March 1909 – 3 November 2001) was an Austrian-born art historian, who spent most of his working life in the United Kingdom.

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“One never finishes learning about art. There are always new things to discover.” 53 likes
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