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The Art History Challenge

December 21, 2008

arthistoryI always wanted to take an art history in college, but there was only one professor and he was infamous for his ridiculously high expectations. Plus, I couldn’t take any electives unless I first took a three-class intro sequence. Obviously, the professor was not interested in dilettantes, so I have remained clueless about art. I was very excited to see this challenge, which is to read six books-either fiction or non-based on art over the course of a year! Here are my choices, which lean towards the non-fiction side:

  • Chagall: A Biography by Jackie Wullschlager: Chagall has been my favourite artist since I went to a Russian Museum special exhibition devoted to him while I was in St. Petersburg. I love his whimsey, his colours, his subjects…but I only know the basics about his life. This brand-new biography has gotten quite a bit of positive attention, and I’m excited about it!
  • The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich: I’m currently reading his A Little History of the World, and the intro said he was known for his art history survey. It’s aimed at absolute beginners, which is great since that’s what I am! It’s 688 pages in the new paperback edition, which is big but not unmanageable.
  • The Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower: I didn’t want to stick to traditional art, and I’ve been wanting to read this novel based around a tapestry forever, so I knew it had to go on the list!
  • Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Wexman: this is a pretty new book about something I’m fascinated by, which the subtitle sums up nicely. I remember visiting the British Museum on a school field trip to see the Rosetta Stone; about a year later, I went to Egypt itself, and it seemed strange that I couldn’t see the Rosetta Stone there! Anyway, the reviews say Wexman gives a fair-handed analysis of the various issues, which is what I’m looking for.
  • My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk: I didn’t enjoy The Black Book, but I’m determined to give Pamuk a second chance! I also wanted a book focused on the non-Western world, so this novel about Muslim illuminators seemed great.
  • Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King: I suddenly realised that I’d picked all big books for the challenge, so this 192 page book focused on architecture seemed like a good way to round out the list. I know nothing about architecture, or about Florence, so it should be fun!
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2008 7:03 am

    and could the Loot book count for the World Citizen challenge? I’m NOT signing up for this challenge except that I promise to read your reviews of these and I’m sure I’ll learn something.

  2. December 21, 2008 7:22 am

    I don’t know anything about art history. I look forward to reading people’s reviews this year; then I may decide to read something…

  3. December 21, 2008 10:08 am

    Thanks for joining the challenge! Good for you for electing to conquer The Story of Art – reading that will almost be like taking an art history course!

  4. December 21, 2008 1:42 pm

    Care, Loot would definitely count! I’m totally listing it under ‘international issues.’ My reading lists for the challenge are taking forever to put together…so far I’ve got over 60 books listed and I’ve only covered politics and economics!!! I think I should just go ahead and make the blog accessible to everyone.

    Rebecca, that’s a good plan.

    Sarah, I hope so! My mom just took an art history class last semester, so I’m planning on discussing everything with her. :)

  5. December 22, 2008 11:47 am

    That is actually a really good biography by Wullschlager. It is pretty thorough and very well written. I have lately been very impressed by Marc Chagall lithographs http://www.masterworksfineart.com/inventory/chagall and etchings.

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