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History of Art

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  32,795 ratings  ·  134 reviews
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 ques ...more
Hardcover, 1000 pages
Published September 22nd 1997 by Thames and Hudson (first published 1962)
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Angie Abebooks sells used copies starting roughly at $10-$15 last time I checked. Or you could check a library.

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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  32,795 ratings  ·  134 reviews

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Books Ring Mah Bell
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-arts
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.
Michael Finocchiaro
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". ...more
Aug 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
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, n
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 Schini ...more
Dee's Reading Zone
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, artist
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 u
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was on the top shelf in the family library (perhaps the original 1962 edition). I would pull it out only when the house was empty because I found the art therein so "tantalizing." I've never been far from the arts since. ...more
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 th ...more
Nathalie Nelson
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 a ...more
Катерина Стојановска
This word collection is an exceptional piece of art itself. I enjoyed it very much!
Ed Smiley
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, wh
May 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-or-design
I am so sad they don't have the cover art for this 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 o ...more
Tamora Pierce
Oct 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: families, art students, writers, artists, people with wide-ranging intellects
Recommended to Tamora by: my mother didn't exactly recommend it
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 edi ...more
Jennifer Welch
Mar 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fine art students, history buffs
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! ...more
Lindsey S.
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves art
One of my art history classes in college required this book. Love it so much!
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.
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art lovers
Shelves: art
A feast for the eyes and the soul.
Cssekar Uspl
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good said the fact I don't know what the story was and what the story was I had ...more
That’s my good old art history book from Scott Community College.
John Nelson
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 mo ...more
Blanca Wortham
Nov 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. =) ...more
Erik Graff
Dec 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art fans
Recommended to Erik by: Janny Marie Willis
Shelves: art
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. ...more
Erika Mulvenna
Nov 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Art History Nerds
Shelves: art
Okay, this book is freaking huge, and I have not read the whole thing cover-to-cover.
Karen L.
Apr 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, non-fiction
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.
Oct 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves art
Recommended to Kathy by: college class
Shelves: art-history
A great book for art history buffs.
Feb 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am in the process of learning art history and have found this book very useful and interesting.
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a beautiful book, excellent on the subject.
Linda Le
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
ap art history, o how i love thee!
Books and the Bronx Gurrrrlll
Feb 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great tongue-in-cheek political satire.
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this from cover-to-cover in the 70's. Very readable, a great reference. Bought my own copy after finishing my friend's copy. A must-have reference. ...more
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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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