I have an art historian at home. Full time. For more than 20 years already. Whenever I mention something art related – Rothko, rococo, Jean-François Millet, the Sixteen Chapel, …. you name it – I get context. When we travel – and we love travelling – Filip is my private guide. That is very, very handy but it also makes me lazy. No need to consult a travel guide or hire the audio headphones and push the right number, he is there. How priviledged am I !
As a souvenir of those visits we buy plenty (too many) art books and catalogues which I read through afterwards. I learn. The time is lacking for now to go to classes but being an avid reader I decided I would devote some of my 2021 reading time to the art history classics. “Another history of art, 2500 years of European art history” by professor Koen Jonckheere at the RUG Rijksuniversiteit Gent, is not yet a classic, but could become one. The book helped me to get a holistic view to the ad hoc context I get from Filip. For the time being the book is only available in Dutch, but editor Hannibal often brings out major titles in English as well.
The book – ant that makes it unique – is not a chronological overview of 2500 years of European art, but evolves around five chapters with Kazimir Malevitsj “Black Square” from 1915 playing a central role. Jonckheere’s five lenses are : art as a product; the concept of art; art and science; art, power and religion and finally form and content. Malevitsj and his art feature at the beginning of each chapter.
My stack of 2021-to-read-books is growing by each book I finish because it leads to another book I have to read. The pandemic has helped me to read more than I usually do. Will have to see, how I manage the numbers beyond COVID19 but I have made it a priority to read some of those other art classics.
I have have checked the bookshelves at home and under the header ‘classics, history of art’ this is what I’m going to pick up next :
E.H. Gombrich, “The Story of Art”, 1950, 2016 revised and redesigned luxury edition, Phaidon.
Simon Schama, “The Power of Art”, 2009, Vintage Publishing.
H.W. Janson, “History of Art”, 1997
Anyone joining me in reading ?