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History of Art

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For 1000s of art lovers both amateur & professional, esthetic life began with Janson, as his History of Art is often called. In the 1st edition, published in 1962, he spoke to that perennial reader he gently called "the troubled layman." His opening paragraph revealed his sympathy: "Why is this supposed to be art?" he quoted rhetorically. "How often have we heard this question asked--or asked it ourselves, perhaps--in front of one of the strange, disquieting works that we are likely to find nowadays in the museum or art exhibition?" Keeping that curious, questioning perspective in mind, he wrote a history of art from cave painting to Picasso that was singularly welcoming, illuminating & exciting. Sojourning thru this book, a reader is offered every amenity for a comfortable trip. Because he never assumes knowledge on the part of the reader, a recent immigrant from Mars could comprehend Western art from this text. The only assumption the Jansons have made is that with a little guidance everyone can come to understand the artifacts that centuries of architecture, sculpture, design & painting have deposited in our paths. Countless readers have proven the Jansons right & found their lives enriched in the process.

1000 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1962

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About the author

H.W. Janson

69 books73 followers
Horst Waldemar Janson, who published as H. W. Janson, was a Russian-American scholar of art history best known for his History of Art, which was first published in 1962 and has sold more than two million copies in fifteen languages.

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5 stars
13,734 (39%)
4 stars
8,835 (25%)
3 stars
6,552 (18%)
2 stars
2,814 (8%)
1 star
2,754 (7%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 161 reviews
Profile Image for Books Ring Mah Bell.
357 reviews244 followers
August 1, 2009
I had an earlier edition of this book for a required humanities class in college : art appreciation. And you know what? I learned to appreciate art. Not LIKE everything, but understand it a bit more. I also gained some killer arm muscles lugging this beast to and from class. Once, I almost used it as a weapon on a homeless man who startled me asking for some change. I could have killed him! I didn't.

But... this book is the best, even if it is dangerous.
Profile Image for Peiman E iran.
1,394 reviews680 followers
March 20, 2018
‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتاب از 625 صفحه تشکیل شده است و برای بیشترِ موضوعات که مربوط به تاریخ هنر در دورانِ و نژادها و سرزمینهایِ گوناگون است، توضیحات کافی به همراهِ عکس هایِ با کیفیت ارائه شده است
‎عزیزانم، میتوان گفت، نخستین هنر و یا صنعتِ انسانها مربوط به زمانی میشود که ابزارهایِ مختلف به وسیلهٔ تراش دادن و خرده پرانی کردن، به شکلهایِ مناسب تری تبدیل شده است که آن دوران را "پارینه سنگی" و یا "عصرِ حجر" مینامیم
‎در چیزی حدودِ 20 هزار سالِ پیش، نخستین آثارِ هنری انسان پدیدار گشت... جالبِ توجه ترین آثارِ هنرِ پارینه سنگی، تصویرهایی از جانوران گوناگون است که نیاکانِ ما بر سطحِ دیواره هایِ سنگیِ غارها، نقاشی و پیکر تراشی کرده اند... امروزه کماکان قبایلی یافت میشوند که در وضعیتِ عصرِ پارینه سنگی زندگی میکنند، ولی عدهٔ بازماندگانِ دوران "نو سنگی" به مراتب از آنها فراوان تر است و در نقاطِ بیشتری از کرهٔ زمین پراکنده شده اند... این بازماندگان همان گروه هایی از انسانها هستند که جامعه هایِ نخستینِ آفریقایِ استوایی و جزایرِ جنوبِ اقیانوسِ آرام و دو قارهٔ شمالی و جنوبی آمریکا را به وجود آورده اند... این مردمان، مرحلهٔ انقلابِ نوسنگی را گذرانده، ولی در مسیرِ تکاملی و تمدن هایِ تاریخی، پیشرفتی نیافته اند
‎میراثِ فرهنگی اقوامِ نخستین رویِ زمین، فرهنگِ کنونی ما را غنی تر ساخته است، چنانکه رسوم و عقاید، دانش و ادبِ قومی و حتی موسیقی آن مردمان به دستِ نژادشناسان جمع آوری و تدوین شده است و به ویژه نمونه هایِ نقاشی و پیکره سازی و دیگر آثارِ هنری این مردگان در سراسرِ باخترزمین موردِ پسندِ روزافزون هنر دوستانی قرار گرفته است که مشتاقانه از آن آثار، مجموعه هایی تشکیل میدهند
‎بخش های مختلف این کتاب، بدینگونه است: هنر بشر قبل از تاریخ - هنر مصری - خاور نزدیک باستانی (سومری،آشوری،ایرانی) - هنر اژه ای - هنر یونانی - هنر اتروریایی - هنر رومی - هنر صدر مسیحیت و بیزانسی - اسلام!!! ( اسلام به خودی خود، خالی از هنر است و منظور هنرِ ایرانیان پس از یورشِ تازیانِ وحشی و بی تمدن به ایران زمین بوده است)- هنر قرون وسطای پیشین - هنر رومانسک - هنر گوتیک - نقاشی و پیکر تراشی در دورانِ گوتیکِ پسین - هنر در دوران رنسانس - هنر در دورهٔ مدرن که شاملِ شیوهٔ رومانتیک، رئالیسم، امپرسیونیسم، پسا امپرسیونیسم، معماری و نقاشی و پیکر تراشی در قرنِ بیستم، میشود
‎امیدوارم این ریویو در جهتِ شناختِ این کتاب مفید بوده باشه و از خواندنِ این کتاب لذت ببرید
‎<پیروز باشید و ایرانی>
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,476 followers
November 25, 2016
I actually have the massive 8x11" size version of this book which an aunt gave to me decades ago. It is both highly readable (as much so as Gombrich) and full of gorgeous illustrations. It is not too academic so perfect for the layman and worth far more than merely a coffee table ornament. It is naturally focused on Western Art but there is some discussion of influences from outside the "western tradition".
Profile Image for Dave.
49 reviews18 followers
August 20, 2011
I can't believe I read the whole thing--haha! It was for AP Art History class in high school--I loved it. Our teacher was fantastic and over 1 year, we went through this whole book, adding notes in the margins on almost every piece of art in the book. It's a huge book that probably gave us all spine curvatures from carrying it in our backpacks, but now it's a treasure I'll keep with me for the rest of my life.
Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
July 21, 2015
I've not really read this book, I use it as a reference. I've not been disappointed for that use, though any book, even one this large, can't contain an inclusive history of a subject as large as "art".

I may modify the three stars at some point if I find that it's deficient in a few things I'm looking for. (Though for that matter, why not just use the web if you're looking for info on an artist or even a particular work of art? The web has made large reference books like this sort of obsolete, no?)

Profile Image for Amber.
456 reviews42 followers
August 5, 2009
H.W. Janson was my boyfriend my senior year of high school I carried around this big maroon book and decided that after 2.5 years of wanting to be an English major I would study Art History for the next chunk of my education. I know there have been problems with Janson's a) focus on Western art and b) focus on art created by dudes (see: The Guerrilla Girls) but by the time I got to it, it was on its 7th or 8th edition and it was a little better. It also helped to supplement it with Laurie Schinieder Adams' book on the same subject.
Profile Image for DeeTimes' Nook.
2,230 reviews
March 5, 2016
Art evolves as man....

I loved this massive book in college! It was like the bible to anything and everything Art! I was always impressed with how H.W Janson was able to break down each era and make Art come to life on paper.

So if you need to learn about the essentials to the history of Art, this is the source to use. The editions have changed but the beginning of the book is the same while from the 20th century to present it has been altered duly so to reflect the evolution of new practices used in Art.

5 worthy stars *****
Profile Image for Bob.
32 reviews
September 11, 2021
Lived with (and loved) this book for 9 months as the central textbook for the sophomore level first year Art History class in college during the mid 1970's. I remember doing a term paper on The Temptations of St Anthony by Martin Schongauer and getting a B+. Following term I did a paper on The Four Apostles by Albrecht Dürer and got an A+. Funny how outta all I studied and learned back in college, it was the year spent in this class, and those two papers, that I remember with love. Had a HUGE crush on the Professor: Dr. Lisa Andrus. Probably one of the reasons I worked so damn hard on that second paper. ;-)
Profile Image for Cindy.
111 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2010
From the dawn of time, artists have been the visual record keepers. My favorite era's are the neoclassic and romantic, the artist's were finally picking up the chisel and paintbrush to depict the everyday and current events of the time, not just being commissioned by rich families and royals to pay homage to their religions as means to save their rich souls from the depths of hell. It gave birth to an independence of expression and inspiration for artists to come. Art has a depth and richness that is awe inspiring, from the first little fertility goddess found to the extravagant styles of Baroque and Rococco, and the Dada movement that I still don't get. (?) I love reading about art, enough to help grasp the passion felt by those inspired to create. A real page turner! :)
44 reviews2 followers
August 20, 2009
Actually I read the 5th edition that was revised and expanded by Anthony F. Janson and was published in 1995. I read the book from cover to cover all 903 pages of it. I have been interested in art all my life and this book covers all aspects of it from pre-historic to modern, at least up to 1995 when the book was published. Each period covered is very helpful and clear but necessarily condensed. One should have a good background in art periods to get the most out of it. Now that I have read it all I keep it available as a reference book.
Profile Image for PAOLAMJ.
39 reviews
June 24, 2022
This book made me have different points of view regarding art and understand artists a little more.
Profile Image for Iulia Vucmanovici.
40 reviews9 followers
July 1, 2022
"Janson's rejection of all female artists has marred his reputation as an art historian, because his books paint only a half picture, omitting any art not done by men. His refusal to acknowledge women extends to the celebrated artist Idelle Weber. Sam Hunter, then curator at MoMA, introduced her to Janson, who admired Weber's work but stated that he did not include women painters in his books."
It is true, there is no mention in the book about any female artists.
(No wonder, then, about the way he died.)
Profile Image for Ed Smiley.
243 reviews36 followers
October 1, 2011
Copiously illustrated, this provides a useful schema from which to learn about different periods of art, and a lot of information you can use for reference.

The edition that I read was pre-political correctness so that means a history of dead white guy artists. It would be better titled a History of Western Art, although it ends with an apologetic and half hearted nod to Asian art. (for a critical view, see The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art)

Needless to say, whenever you cover such a large territory, you are bound to be forced to leave somebody out, and get slammed for your choices, so I won't belabor the point. Despite this, you can learn a great deal about the history of art, and the author is not entirely neutral in tone, which I consider a plus, as you can then assess the author's opinions yourself.

Despite Goodreads, which seems to be hallucinating, this book is not 150 pages, but 767 pages long.
Profile Image for Kristen.
57 reviews
May 14, 2008
I am so sad they don't have the cover art for this book...it is one of my favorites by Boucicaut Master (ca 1415). The picture is of Adam & Eve and it tells the garden story from beginning to expulsion, to the point where they bring their story to the Master--ensuring HIS place in history. Boccaccio's work de casibus viorum illustratum is related to this piece...and the art looks alike, but Boccaccio was Italian and the Boucicaut master was French. The theme was very popular (The rise and fall of illustrious men and women) in the middle ages (see lady fortune's wheel by Boccacio...whose de casibus begins with Adam and Eve).

More later after some research

link: Getty Boucicaut Master
Profile Image for Душица .
59 reviews17 followers
May 21, 2019
Dzensonova Istorija umetnosti je vec vise od 50 godina ( prvo izdanje 1962 god.) nezaobilazna literatura za buduce istoricare umetnosti, kao i za sve koje interesuje umetnost. Izuzetno sadrzajno delo koje govori, opisuje i povezuje zapadnu umetnost od praistorije do modernog doba. Iznosi karakteristike umetnickih dela, analize perioda, pravaca i doprinosa umetnika.
Za samo upoznavanje i osnove o umetnosti, ovo je odlicna knjiga; daje opsti pregled umetnosti i dogadjaja koji su uticali na nju. Za one koji planiraju da postanu strucnjaci u ovoj oblasti, potrebno je dosta dodatne literature, koja je uglavnom na engleskom jeziku.
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 107 books83.1k followers
October 24, 2008
I think this is one book that every eager-to-learn person who can lift it ought to have. It's a good survey of the history of art; the pictures are stunning, and you'd be amazed at the interesting conversations that result when your five-year-old (someone like, oh, me) discovers the naked ones! Seriously, this book introduced me to art as a child, and I got my own copy years ago. I still refer to it for ideas. No one book can possibly hold all art history, but this is a fabulous home starter edition!
Profile Image for Jennifer Welch.
40 reviews16 followers
March 31, 2007
this is the standard must-have of any and all art students. art history isn't just about art, but it is the history of man, civilization and religion. i learned so much more than art in this book (back-the-day in art school). btw, this is still the largest book i have!
Profile Image for Lindsey S..
25 reviews
August 29, 2007
One of my art history classes in college required this book. Love it so much!
44 reviews
March 6, 2008
ah, art school. this was my FIRST college text book. i actually read all of my art school text books, still have them, and still use them. i use this one all the time.
Profile Image for Cssekar Uspl.
91 reviews7 followers
May 23, 2017
Good said the fact I don't know what the story was and what the story was I had
Profile Image for John Nelson.
349 reviews4 followers
February 6, 2018
This book is (or was, until it was superseded by a newer edition) the standard textbook for introductory courses on art history in college and high school. It carries all the merits and demerits one would expect from a general survey of a wide subject. The subject material is fascinating, covering an immense variety of beautiful and interesting paintings, sculptures, and other works of art. At the same time, because the subject is so broad, the author can devote only a page or two to even the most famous worthy of artists despite the book's considerable length. This lends a hopscotch character to the book and prevents the authors from going into depth on much of anything. Also, since the book was published when color printing was much more expensive than black and white, most of the pictures are in black and white, which is an obvious drawback with works of art meant to be viewed in color. Still, reading this book and pondering over the works of art illustrated in it makes a very worthwhile way to spend your evenings.
Profile Image for Lisajean.
222 reviews41 followers
March 4, 2018
This goes into much more detail than Gombrich's The Story of Art and focuses more on the uniqueness of each particular period, rather than on the continuity between them. It's a good follow-up to Gombrich and has plenty of pictures. While I found it less engaging to read straight through, it would make a great reference work.
Profile Image for Blanca Wortham.
4 reviews2 followers
November 8, 2007
This is the best art history book i've read, I had to buy it for school, it doesn't compare to others I've read, super big & heavy! (my edition even more cuz its from the 70's), but totally worth it. =)
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
4,994 reviews1,101 followers
February 16, 2014
There was no art requirement in high school and I took Theatre at Grinnell College to fulfill their one-course art requirement, so I read this, a common college textbook, to cover the kind of material that I had missed. Since then I've tried one or two other, similar survey books.
Profile Image for Karen L..
408 reviews1 follower
April 2, 2008
This is great for those who really want to understand Art history. It is a college text and great resource book that I have used over the years.
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