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American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  511 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Writing with all the brilliance, authority, and pungent wit that have distinguished his art criticism for Time magazine and his greatly acclaimed study of modern art, The Shock of the New, Robert Hughes now addresses his largest subject: the history of art in America.

The intense relationship between the American people and their surroundings has been the source of a rich
Hardcover, 648 pages
Published April 22nd 1997 by Knopf (first published January 1st 1997)
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Will Allen
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'll refrain from saying much since my students are currently writing reviews on one of the video episodes. I will gladly say this: Of all the books I have used over the years to teach the history of American art, this (and the videos) succeed beyond any other. My students like it. They like the man. Even when he disappoints a reader who reads or sees a favorite artist "put down" by Hughes, they honestly respect his opinion. He is one of those critics who never seems cynical even when he dismiss ...more
Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Read the whole book in college, and watched the movies. They're actually quite good. I find myself still thinking about them 10 years later. ...more
Jun 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the humanities
This book is an incredible addition to a humanities library. With a sweeping look at the arts in America, the thing that sets this book apart from the rest is the author's ability to give *context* to it all. You get this great feel for what was going on in America and the world at the time that made this painting or that statue so valued or memorable, even if we might think it's the ugliest thing we've ever seen. I also love that Robert Hughes isn't afraid to express his opinion about various w ...more
Ray Dunsmore
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A staunchly-opinionated, frank, fascinating account of the development of art in my home country. Hughes' no-holds-barred criticism is honestly refreshing to hear from an academic art writer. If he sees problems in an artist's work or doesn't see much worth in it at all, he is entirely unafraid to say so. He lays down his biases in plain text and you know enough to skew around them and take what he's saying with a degree of uncertainty. That's important, honestly. The subterfuge of feigning obje ...more
Drew Plummer
Jan 29, 2021 rated it liked it
As an overall history of American art, this is one of the more comprehensive that I have read. The illustrations are helpful, if perhaps a touch sparse. The coverage of major American art schools and architectural movements up through Abstract Expressionism is thorough, often thoughtful, and generally illuminating. As Hughes gets closer and closer to contemporary art he begins to leave the role of dispassionate historian and speak with a critic’s voice, which I found somewhat distracting.
David Ryan
Mar 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
An art critic nonpareil I began reading his art criticisms in Time magazine in the ’70s and have since read all his art related books. This book was published in conjunction with the eight-part PBS series. I had the pleasure of meeting Hughes while acquiring the book at a book-signing event (which he generously autographed to Anne, my wife). You may not wish to read it cover to cover (I didn’t), but one chapter will invariably lead to others if you’re, as Hughes says, “a general intelligent read ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic overview of American art. Someone from somewhere else (Australia) had to write it, even though Hughes was the art critic for "Time" magazine. No high faluting theory here, well written witty prose sets a context and provides understanding of those blotches on the wall that are "modern art". Hughes has the right attitude, not quite sneering at manifestos issued to an -ism adherents, but informative and conversational. A huge gorgeous doorstop of a book, enjoyed over many nights. ...more
Mar 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
illustrations were excellent. I learned a lot especially about 18th and 19th century american painting. The book dragged a bit at the end when the late 20th century was covered in too much detail and Hughes sarcastically quoted the unintelligible explanations with which the artists explained their art again and again. Hughes thinks Pollock and Hopper were the most creative 20th century American painters and he convinced me.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a really good History of America, through her art, architecture and people. Hughes helpfully situates American in wider History and shows fine sensitivity to the various strains of influence and life that make up America; a place indeed of many visions.
Jeffrey S.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good overview of American Art. I hope I can someday see the PBS mini series it was based upon. This is a thorough discussion and dense book - not an easy read. However the tradeoff in effort was worth the details and insight provided by the knowledgeable art critic author. The pictures were beautiful and of good size.
Jackie G
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hughes' narration is entertaining as well as informative. The illustrations and anecdotes bring this history alive. Just wish there had been room for even more reproductions of the works described. ...more
Mar 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting informative accompaniment to the BBC television series. Very detailed account covering all the great American Artists Illustrations excellent
Stephen Coates
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This well-illustrated book presents a history of the United States through its art from its beginnings as a collection of colonies through independence, westward expansion through various stages to where art was at the time of the book’s publication. Hughes certainly knew his art and the book was an interesting read.
David Cowhig
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great overview, richly illustrated. Hughes is a great read -- I've also read "Barcelona", "Rome" and "The Fatal Shore". Great to dip into -- high resolution art photos on nearly every page. ...more
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Very tendentious and judgmental which is typical for Hughes. I do disagree with him, especially on significance of Hopper, Winslow Homer and Wyeth, among others. My gods are Eakins and Sargent and Whister's etchings. I do like Hughes' courage to make judgments about good and bad in art however, and his send up of the NYC 80s art world as a relativistic PR machine for peddling junk to dealers. This seems to only have gotten worse. But the good news is New York's star has definitely fallen. ...more
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I used this as a textbook in my classes. Actually I showed the films and the book was recommended.
Hughes was a man of definite opinions with a sardonic sense of humor. The book is an uneven survey (not to mention biased). Better than dry textbooks for stimulating discussion and this was a discussion class. For a good balanced survey of American Art I would recommend either Mendelowitz or Craven.
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: american art addicts
An illuminating book by an Australian author who also hosted the brilliant television series which this book expands on in a scholarly but accessible manner. The illustrations are vivid and very true to life, but if you get the chance rent the tv series, they're thrilling. The book is available at a very affordable price from various sites listed right here on goodreads. ...more
Eric McLean
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for anyone looking to understand/appreciate/learn more about American art. Robert Hughes is a talented writer and I enjoyed reading between the lines on some of non-American humor. There are some rather dry parts, but I suppose that's bound to happen in a 600 page book about art. You probably won't enjoy it all. ...more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book and watched the accompanying PBS series for a class in school. If you have the ambition, it is well worth the time and effort to read this book and watch (most) of the series (it's on you tube). I am sorry that Robert Hughes has since passed away - I would have been very interested in a follow up. ...more
Nov 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Rbt Hughes continues to inspire and reveal all the layers of everything - and I mean everything about art - with constant wit, insight and blinding, wildly crass matter of factness. He remains one of my favorite art historians/ critics of all time.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Compulsory for anyone who wants to quickly get to grips with American art, and its strange blend of conservatism and innovation for innovations sake. Chapters on 18th- 19th centuries are actually the best.
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is undoubtedly my most favourite book of all time, the beautiful flow of writing and insights into the world of art are astounding. Read this book!!!
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
at 648 pages, this is a bit much for even Robert Hughes worshipers, but its AN ESSENTIAL BOOK for any thinking humans out there.
David Chivers
A wonderful, epic history of art in America. It is strong through most of th book, but the last chapters on recent impressionism and abstract art fall off a bit. Well -illustrated as well.
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design-art
Love this book. Well written.
PottWab Regional Library
Dec 28, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2012-new
F.J. Commelin
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
A good overview and robert hUghes is a good writer who takes you with him on his journey
Terence Manleigh
A wonderful, engrossing critical overview of American art, full of drama and Hughes' sometimes trenchant wit. ...more
Robert Hughes is insightful, but his snarky remarks about many topics, including American art and artists, grew annoying by the time I finished the book. It will be a useful reference book.
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An amazing work of scholarship and perspective.
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Robert Studley Forrest Hughes, AO was an Australian art critic, writer and television documentary maker who has resided in New York since 1970. He was educated at St Ignatius' College, Riverview before going on to study arts and then architecture at the University of Sydney. At university, Hughes associated with the Sydney "Push" – a group of artists, writers, intellectuals and drinkers. Among the ...more

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