What is art and where did it start? Why do we make art and why does art change all the time? These are just some of the many questions Julian Bell asks in this new history of art for the 21st century.
From humanity’s first impulse to create shapes from raw materials down to today’s most modern installations, men have always been attracted to image-building. Styles and ages pass, but there is still so much waiting to be discovered about the fascinating links between traditions apparently remote from each other. Bell, a painter, art historian and critic, uses a wide range of objects, some familiar, others less so, to demonstrate how art is the result of our shared experiences and how, like a mirror, it reflects human condition and our main cultural preoccupations. Striking out off the beaten track favoured up until now by other art historians, Bell has chosen to take a global view to construct comparisons that readers should find both challenging and illuminating: bronze figures of dancers from southern India, Romanesque sculptures, Baroque ceilings and Persian manuscripts are described side by side as extraordinary witnesses to our universal creative instinct. Bell’s innovative narrative of the history of art is destined to become a milestone for a new generation of readers.