Readers are treated to a whirlwind tour of art history from prehistoric art to new media.
The guide is divided into six sections (an introduction to the very basics, then the history in five chapters from early art to contemporary), and each section includes an introductory glossary. Of the 27 art movements detailed (ancient Greek, northern Renaissance, baroque, postimpressionism, etc.), only four are expressly not of a European or American tradition: prehistoric art, ancient Egyptian, Aztec, and Ukiyo-e. Each double-page spread includes a 30-second rundown of the art movement, a small reproduction of at least one exemplary piece of art, a “3-second sum-up,” and a “3-minute” creative exercise, leaving pages busy but never overwhelming. Cheery mixed-media illustrations create engaging scenes surrounding the famous exemplars: For example, Robins illustrates Van Gogh in the act of painting Sunflowers juxtaposed with a scene of museum visitors examining a reproduction. The visual depiction of real-life artists is almost exclusively of white men, but Robins does include a diversity of skin tones and implied genders in the more general illustrations. One image of a Plains Indian in stereotypical headdress and war paint (the only American Indian presence) is placed next to a garbage can in a most unfortunate combination. A list of resources to “discover more” includes age-appropriate fiction and nonfiction titles, apps, and websites.
Although the book primarily reinforces the Western art history canon, readers will happily breeze through Hodge’s creative introduction and, hopefully, be inspired to seek out more art history knowledge. (Nonfiction. 8-12)