Let’s be honest, we don’t always have the time and wish to read thick encyclopedias on the history of art to get a general idea and some knowledge you want. In such cases, we refer to different compact editions with the most important information for each period. “The Short Story of Art” is one of them.
The book is intended primarily for those who are just entering the world of art and who want to understand the connection between the periods, concepts and terms. Anyways, this book can also be useful for those who are already in the art world as a quick reference book.
Unlike the book “Art” from the Russian series “For those who want to manage everything” published by “Eksmo-Press” (in Russia), this book is not dedicated solely to the periods, and easy navigation helps to dive into the topic of interest. “The Short Story of Art” consists of four sections: “Styles and trends”, “Works”, “Themes” and “Techniques”. In books that talk “about all art history in five minutes” you can constantly find texts about styles, trends and major works, but themes and techniques are neglected. That is the value of this book – raising all topics connected with visual arts.
Navigation is arranged as follows: each page is dedicated to a specific subject. In the upper right corner of the circle you see the period. Then the most important information is indicated: the main names of the epoch/direction/theme, the initial data about the work. At the bottom of the page there are cross-references to other articles of the book, revealing the same subject from the other angle.
Despite the left alignment of the text (which is extremely inconvenient for me personally), it is easy to read — the language is not burdened with terms, but adapted to a person who is far from the world of art and its complex language (Russian art language has complex syntax). At the end of each mini-article there is a summary, which gives an understanding of the context. I recommend to start acquaintance with each page with this summary, then proceed to the main text and only then get acquainted with the representatives of the direction or other details specified on the page.
The choice of artists and works in such books, most likely, will forever remain a mystery to me: the choice is sometimes very strange, not quite well-known artist or works are discussed or they don’t clearly characterize the episode, direction, etc. Perhaps you can rely on Susie Hodge’s opinion: she wrote more than 100 books for children and adults on the history of art, design, religion and biography, practical art.
In addition to easy navigation and really the most important information for understanding the development of art, the quality of paper and printing can be distinguished as the dignity of the book. Books on art, first of all, are about the visual side. So, the images should be clear, bright, catching the eye, and not causing disgust.
However, the book is not perfect: like other books of this type, the information is presented as briefly as possible and will not suit the lazy reader. It forces to work with the material. Some illustrations are located unsuccessfully: at the spine or two pages, which interferes with perception. There’s no space for note taking. Of course, it’s all the little things compared to a well-selected and developed by the author of the book. I think that at the moment, “The Short Story of Art” is the best book about art in a summarized format.