The Atlas of World Art maps the cumulative traces of humankind's artistic activity and demonstrates the importance of physical and political geography for the history of the world's art. This stunning volume is the first to treat the art of the whole world from prehistory to present day and to show the importance of natural and social factors in shaping artistic activity.
The Atlas is divided into seven parts, each devoted to a specific time period: Art of the Hunter Gatherer (50,000-5,000 BCE); Art, Agriculture and Urbanization (5,000-500 BCE); Art, War and Empire (500 BCE-600 CE); Art, Religion and Empire (600-1500); Art, Exploitation and Display (1500-1800); Art, Industry and Science (1800-1900); Art, Competition and Identity (1900-2000). Each section opens with a helpful timeline for that period bringing together important dates from across various cultures. Within each section, the spreads are organized by four broad geographic regions: the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia and the Pacific. With dramatic full-color maps, as well as commentaries and illustrations, the Atlas of World Art is an authoritative, comprehensive, and elegant volume.
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John Onians is Professor of Visual Arts, School of World Art Studies and Museology, University of East Anglia, Norwich.
With approximately 150 large-format double-page spreads, Atlas of World Art is, claims the press release, "the first geographical reference to treat the art of the whole world from prehistory to the present day and to show the importance of natural as well as social factors in shaping artistic activity." Each spread integrates full-color maps (more than 300 in all), attractive photographs of significant art or architecture, and text summarizing artistic activity during the relevant era and locale.
Arrangement is broadly chronological and then regional. A sampling of topics includes "North Africa, A.D. 300-600," "Scandinavia and the Baltic, 1500-1800," and "Japan and Korea, 1900-2000." The subject matter of maps varies greatly. The three maps for "China and Tibet, 1300-1500" show important visual production sites, routes tracing China's global contacts, and city boundaries (color coded by date) and religious sites in Quanzhou. Given the necessary brevity of text, the bibliography at the end of the volume is essential for further reading. A comprehensive index puts page numbers in bold for map references and extrabold for illustration captions. Captions may be less reliable than text information: China's famed terra-cotta warriors are said to have been discovered in the 1960s in a caption and in the 1970s in adjacent text; the caption describing Juan O'Gorman's huge mosaic mural on the University Library in Mexico City attributes the work to Jose Clemente Orozco.
In size and format, Atlas of World Art is very similar to Atlas of Western Art History (Facts On File, 1994). The latter's maps are less colorful but are generally larger, often full-page size; the differences in what the maps portray and in choice of illustrations (there is little overlap) are reason enough to have both volumes on hand. Atlas of Western Art History limits its coverage to the Western world, including colonial Latin America, from 700 B.C.E. to C.E. 1950, while Atlas of World Art takes the whole world, from 40,000 B.C.E. to C.E. 2000, as its domain.
Despite occasional inaccuracies, the atlas is highly recommended for high-school, public, academic, and art libraries. Craig Bunch
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