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Isms: Understanding Art

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Revised Edition, Updated 2017 Isms: Understanding Art is the perfect pocket-sized guide for gallery and museum lovers who have a general interest in the arts, but not necessarily any formal education in the visual arts. With this portable and indispensable tool in hand, anyone can guide themselves through the world's prestigious museums and major art collections and recogn Revised Edition, Updated 2017 Isms: Understanding Art is the perfect pocket-sized guide for gallery and museum lovers who have a general interest in the arts, but not necessarily any formal education in the visual arts. With this portable and indispensable tool in hand, anyone can guide themselves through the world's prestigious museums and major art collections and recognize and intelligently discuss the significant movements that have shaped the world of art. Using an informative and engaging style with informal and direct tone, each of the numerous isms that are used to define-but often misleadingly cloud-art movements are explained in simple terms and made accessible to the casual art lover. Readers are encouraged to think of styles as useful tools for conversation and exploration rather than as hard and fast academic definitions, and to relate to the art itself rather than to a merely conceptual idea. Each spread is devoted to a single art historical period and begins with an introduction that explains when the movement first emerged, the historical period to which it applies, and the principal disputes over its applicability, usefulness, or significance. The rest of the chapter is divided into several sections illustrating the most important artists and works within the period, related key words, and illustrations that best represent the distinctive features. This comprehensible structure makes it possible for any reader to gain a clear understanding of Classicism or Cubism while sitting in a cafe or visiting a gallery.


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Revised Edition, Updated 2017 Isms: Understanding Art is the perfect pocket-sized guide for gallery and museum lovers who have a general interest in the arts, but not necessarily any formal education in the visual arts. With this portable and indispensable tool in hand, anyone can guide themselves through the world's prestigious museums and major art collections and recogn Revised Edition, Updated 2017 Isms: Understanding Art is the perfect pocket-sized guide for gallery and museum lovers who have a general interest in the arts, but not necessarily any formal education in the visual arts. With this portable and indispensable tool in hand, anyone can guide themselves through the world's prestigious museums and major art collections and recognize and intelligently discuss the significant movements that have shaped the world of art. Using an informative and engaging style with informal and direct tone, each of the numerous isms that are used to define-but often misleadingly cloud-art movements are explained in simple terms and made accessible to the casual art lover. Readers are encouraged to think of styles as useful tools for conversation and exploration rather than as hard and fast academic definitions, and to relate to the art itself rather than to a merely conceptual idea. Each spread is devoted to a single art historical period and begins with an introduction that explains when the movement first emerged, the historical period to which it applies, and the principal disputes over its applicability, usefulness, or significance. The rest of the chapter is divided into several sections illustrating the most important artists and works within the period, related key words, and illustrations that best represent the distinctive features. This comprehensible structure makes it possible for any reader to gain a clear understanding of Classicism or Cubism while sitting in a cafe or visiting a gallery.

30 review for Isms: Understanding Art

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    We have evolved into a species worshipping ISMS! As a sign of our continuing abstraction process, we analyse and catalogise our world and label it according to what we perceive as distinctive traits. In political terms, I passionately advocate feminism, humanism, multiculturalism, individualism, multilingualism, environmentalism and so on and I strongly oppose racism, antisemitism, ostracism, conservatism, religious fanaticism and so on. Each ISM is connected in my mind to a set of values, emot We have evolved into a species worshipping ISMS! As a sign of our continuing abstraction process, we analyse and catalogise our world and label it according to what we perceive as distinctive traits. In political terms, I passionately advocate feminism, humanism, multiculturalism, individualism, multilingualism, environmentalism and so on and I strongly oppose racism, antisemitism, ostracism, conservatism, religious fanaticism and so on. Each ISM is connected in my mind to a set of values, emotions and ideas. Art - being a visual expression of values, thoughts, emotions and ideas of a specific time - obviously mirrors the different social and political movements and shows them from a creative point of view. Often, art follows broad cultural trends, such as romanticism or classicism, and develops its visual expressions matching the values expressed during the era. Sometimes art creates a movement which is unique for the medium - such as perspectivism or illusionism to suggest space on a two-dimensional canvas or wall. Sometimes artists themselves define their art as a specific ISM - publishing official statements on the birth of a new movement, as in the case of futurism at the beginning of the 20th century. Quite often, an ISM is retrospectively added to define a movement by comparing it to an earlier or later phase. Post-impressionism or post-modernism are examples of such ISMs. Unsurprisingly, humankind finds it difficult to navigate the flood of ISMs it has created to catalogue its ideas and expressions. We are a storytelling species, and we tell stories in words, pictures, buildings, statues, music and politics. Our narratives become more and more complex, and confusing, despite - or because of - all the labelling. Our need for structure has created a massive backlash. That is where this short volume comes in. A guide to the most common ISMs in art, it also gives us definitions, key words, main artists, timelines, glossary, comparisons of artists and movements. In the Jungle of ISMs, this is a good compass! I use it for teaching, but any art lover will find some valuable guidelines within it - or something to argue about, as there is hardly anything we feel so strongly about as about our preferred ISMS.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Ted

    146th book of 2020. Review to come, though not much to say - informative and brief, a walk through art... My review might consist of art that is discussed that I happen to like.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    It's been 10 years since I've taken AP art history, so I picked up this book at the library while browsing the art section to get a little refresher. It served as a nice, quick 'n dirty general overview of art ideas in western art history. It got the job done (and reminded me that there's a lot that I've forgotten :)). It's been 10 years since I've taken AP art history, so I picked up this book at the library while browsing the art section to get a little refresher. It served as a nice, quick 'n dirty general overview of art ideas in western art history. It got the job done (and reminded me that there's a lot that I've forgotten :)).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paria shaheen

    It’s quite a shame to see the demise of pure beauty in modern world. The world I hardly understand. This was a very well-summerised and informative book about all the isms in art from renaissance till post modernism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    I preferred "Art Spoke" as a guide to the general movements of art. I am using this as a guide to make sure that I am exposing my students (grade 5/6) to a wide breadth of art representation. I liked that it was manageable in length and that each page has a snapshot of what made this "ism" important to artistic development. My school is particularly stringent about what art can be shown... so I had to draw little black dresses... on nearly every page... For use in an art-classroom environment, i I preferred "Art Spoke" as a guide to the general movements of art. I am using this as a guide to make sure that I am exposing my students (grade 5/6) to a wide breadth of art representation. I liked that it was manageable in length and that each page has a snapshot of what made this "ism" important to artistic development. My school is particularly stringent about what art can be shown... so I had to draw little black dresses... on nearly every page... For use in an art-classroom environment, it may need some editing. But, as an artist it was highly informative and beautifully presented! I really liked it!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Camelia Rose

    A brief introduction of various arts movements since Renaissance. It is concise and straightforward therefore perfect for a beginner like me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sjors

    A little book with a little informative content and a little in the way of pretty - if a little hackneyed- pictures, written by someone called Little and now given a little review. This booklet does but little to help one understand art. Don’t buy it for that reason.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is one of the books that sits on a short square table in my studio. I browse through it again and again when I want to refer to a period, a style, a painter. I have myriad other books on art but this book is small, packed with information and decent color reproductions of key works by key artists from key periods. The chronology of periods and styles and the layout of the book has really helped me to form and keep in my head a solid visual timeline of painters and movements. While this isn' This is one of the books that sits on a short square table in my studio. I browse through it again and again when I want to refer to a period, a style, a painter. I have myriad other books on art but this book is small, packed with information and decent color reproductions of key works by key artists from key periods. The chronology of periods and styles and the layout of the book has really helped me to form and keep in my head a solid visual timeline of painters and movements. While this isn't comprehensive like Art: A World History by Bucholz,et al. or 30,000 Years of Art by Phaidon (two tomes I highly recommend) this little book of art Isms: like the other books in the Isms series offers enough information that upon finishing reading one can walk through any major museum and look at the works with a greater sense of understanding their importance and how those artists and works fit into a grander scheme of culture and history.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cale

    This is a good primer on modern art movements. It's designed as a primer, with a basic description, some background, some examples, and some guidance as to where it fits within the overall art movements. The choice to focus on pieces at a single museum per movement was a little strange, and a more visual representation of how the movements fed off of or bled into each other would have been nice, but this does a very good job of giving the prominent names and time periods for each movement. This This is a good primer on modern art movements. It's designed as a primer, with a basic description, some background, some examples, and some guidance as to where it fits within the overall art movements. The choice to focus on pieces at a single museum per movement was a little strange, and a more visual representation of how the movements fed off of or bled into each other would have been nice, but this does a very good job of giving the prominent names and time periods for each movement. This would be a very handy book to have while visiting museums, and it's a good jumping off point for other research.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Hyman

    ‘Isms’ is a well-organized summary of the major themes, genres, and artists that defined modern art in Europe and America. A uniform structure and concise chapters (2 pages per artistic movement) make it a handy reference guide. I do take issue with the last chapter— an absurdly brief statement on ‘internationalism’ in the art world. While it is true that the art world has become increasingly globalized in the last twenty years, limiting non-western artists to the last chapter is reductive and r ‘Isms’ is a well-organized summary of the major themes, genres, and artists that defined modern art in Europe and America. A uniform structure and concise chapters (2 pages per artistic movement) make it a handy reference guide. I do take issue with the last chapter— an absurdly brief statement on ‘internationalism’ in the art world. While it is true that the art world has become increasingly globalized in the last twenty years, limiting non-western artists to the last chapter is reductive and revisionist. Modernism occurred all over the world! Perhaps the title should specify the text’s focus on European and American art movements.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    2007 wrote: Probably the best guide to understnading the story of Western Art I have seen. A great compliment to a class i am currently taking. Defines each major ISM by the time period and major aspects,, as well as exploring key major works and the influences.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mycala

    This is a great book if you want a quick reference for art history movements. Of course it's by no means exhaustive, but it gives the reader a good place to start with a brief history, a list of prominent artists, and some of the most well-known works of each. This is a great book if you want a quick reference for art history movements. Of course it's by no means exhaustive, but it gives the reader a good place to start with a brief history, a list of prominent artists, and some of the most well-known works of each.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Basic, accessible art history with lots of pictures and simple explanations.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Nice resource for gaining a better grasp on the various art movements. Each entry includes: major works and artists, characteristics, time period, and examples.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pollopicu

    Not as comprehensive as it claimed. Good for cross-referencing with other movement-related texts.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pipitpip

    very good art handbook.Lots of great paintings. I love to see and read it over and over.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sonia

    A good starting point.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Simona

    Good :-)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathie

    While this had plenty of information, I wish that it delved more into the artists. Now I have to find more books on each movement and do more work.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    If you’re looking for an in-depth book that well articulates consistent and specific themes across art history, this isn’t the book you’re looking for. However, if you want a brief read that will give you a general understanding behind some of the major art movements in the west since the renaissance, than this book will suffice. I was at the gift store for the art institute of Chicago when this book was recommended to me by an employee. In hindsight I’m glad I bought this instead of nothing, bu If you’re looking for an in-depth book that well articulates consistent and specific themes across art history, this isn’t the book you’re looking for. However, if you want a brief read that will give you a general understanding behind some of the major art movements in the west since the renaissance, than this book will suffice. I was at the gift store for the art institute of Chicago when this book was recommended to me by an employee. In hindsight I’m glad I bought this instead of nothing, but if given the choice to change my decision might have picked a different book. After a short bit of reading, I realized how extensively jargon heavy it would be and that partly might explain the disconnect in enjoyment between someone that works at an art museum and an “aspiring art appreciator” like myself. In terms of price I was extremely pleasantly surprised, obviously the copy the reader of this review might buy could be different, but mine was full of color and basically plastic pages. So given that it was high quality printing and from a museum $17 is a fair price. My only other criticism is that sometimes the author starts describing certain art forms as “bourgeois” without explaining this in any detail. Before any marxists come at me in the comments for being overly critical of this point, it connects to his broader use of jargon without explanation.

  21. 4 out of 5

    L (bardcore_viking)

    A great synopsis of the 'chronological' history of art for those needing an introduction to the discipline of art history. It fits the program for most advanced art history courses from high school to college, but falls flat when it comes to actual depth of the history of art, which is to be expected. It's a pocket reference guide for me and it does come in handy. Hopefully one day we as a discipline can get away from the Vasari/Gombrich origins of a purely 'western' perspective of the progressi A great synopsis of the 'chronological' history of art for those needing an introduction to the discipline of art history. It fits the program for most advanced art history courses from high school to college, but falls flat when it comes to actual depth of the history of art, which is to be expected. It's a pocket reference guide for me and it does come in handy. Hopefully one day we as a discipline can get away from the Vasari/Gombrich origins of a purely 'western' perspective of the progression of art. While it is true that some styles or 'isms' piggy-backed or confronted styles that came before it to create their own raison d'etre, our way of teaching doesn't showcase the variety and depth of the creative world throughout history, leaving out key cultures from the framework. *rant over* Nonetheless, it's a well organized pocket reference tool and worth recommending to students - majors and non-majors alike.

  22. 4 out of 5

    JV Austen

    So much information in this little book! Elaborately illustrated, slightly opinionated 2 pages per "ism". The one change I'd make is to move the timeline to the front of the book instead of where it is obscurely hidden AFTER the index and before a very small list of museums. This would be a great gift book. So much information in this little book! Elaborately illustrated, slightly opinionated 2 pages per "ism". The one change I'd make is to move the timeline to the front of the book instead of where it is obscurely hidden AFTER the index and before a very small list of museums. This would be a great gift book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Blackburn

    A wonderful synopsis of each art movement. A helpful guide to understanding art, plus the psychology inspiring that art more thoroughly!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    An easy read while giving good information and names regarding artistic movements and styles. Very good resource without being overwhelming.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    An interesting and straight forward overview of art history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aliya Flare

    I suppose this is one of those books which any amateur should have in their library, but it is very, very unspecific. The book is really good for someone who just wants to scratch the surface and sort of get some general knowledge, but that's about it. I liked that some of the art which has been referenced is not mainstream/well known so one gets a more broad idea of the specific genre. The format is really easy to follow and overall it's an okay read, but not for someone with years of studying I suppose this is one of those books which any amateur should have in their library, but it is very, very unspecific. The book is really good for someone who just wants to scratch the surface and sort of get some general knowledge, but that's about it. I liked that some of the art which has been referenced is not mainstream/well known so one gets a more broad idea of the specific genre. The format is really easy to follow and overall it's an okay read, but not for someone with years of studying beforehand. It is the sort of book you would read if you're scared to dive right in the big books. The book was recommended to me by my college tutors and this is pretty much the only reason I read it, but I cannot say that it was totally useless. So yeah... I suppose what I'm trying to say is that if you have no background in art history go for it, it will sort of help you sort things in your pretty little heads, but if you have even the slightest idea don't bother. It really doesn't offer much more than what a simple common knowledge should include.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mukesh Kumar

    Completely euro-centric. Covers the major and minor art movements in Western Europe, mostly, while ignoring art traditions of other regions totally. Nice pictures and small, neat summaries, though they do get obscure and generic at times. A good read, only if one is interested in western European art history.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Figen Ger

    I read it in Turkish and I wish, there was at least names of the movement in English also. Everything, but everything is translated and sometimes it is weird to read. (like naturemort which is a very well accepted, common definition in Turkish for art, also translated as "ölü doğa") I read it in Turkish and I wish, there was at least names of the movement in English also. Everything, but everything is translated and sometimes it is weird to read. (like naturemort which is a very well accepted, common definition in Turkish for art, also translated as "ölü doğa")

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nargiz

    The accurate name for the book should be “isms: understanding West European art”. Good to have this reference book on the shelf for getting a general overview about the main art movements in Western Europe since XIV century.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Armen

    am gonna find out how to understand art!!yaay

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