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The Art Atlas

The Art Atlas

by John Onians (Editor)

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An invaluable guide to world art from prehistory to the present, complete with over 600 maps and illustrations and a searchable CD.

The Art Atlas is the first work to present the art of the entire world from ancient to modern times through extensive use of specially commissioned maps. Covering painting, sculpture, and architecture as well as other


An invaluable guide to world art from prehistory to the present, complete with over 600 maps and illustrations and a searchable CD.

The Art Atlas is the first work to present the art of the entire world from ancient to modern times through extensive use of specially commissioned maps. Covering painting, sculpture, and architecture as well as other arts and artifacts, the volume provides an entirely new vision of the history of the world’s art by showing how physical and political geography has shaped its developments.

Over 350 pages in scope, Atlas compares countries separated by thousands of miles and many centuries, demonstrating how the art of each is affected by opportunities and constraints dictated by location or culture. Here, for the first time, readers can appreciate the art of prehistoric Oceania and the Nile Valley of the Pharaohs alongside that of nineteenth-century Russia and the twentieth-century United States. In addition to showing where and when great artists lived and worked, Atlas explains how major styles developed and the ways in which art has been influenced by religion, trade, travel, war, and other historical factors. The volume also provides the first comprehensive picture of the impact of the natural world on the development of art, charting the sources of fibers for weaving, pigments for coloring, wood for carving, paper for printing, and stone for use in sculpture and architecture.

With its combination of enormous breadth and constant clarity of focus, abundant illustrations and a user-friendly, searchable CD, Art Atlas provides exceptional insight into what unites art and what makes it so varied. Organized into seven chronological periods and including contributions from 68 internationally renowned art historians, The Art Atlas is an original, comprehensive and up-to-date reference work that will be a benchmark for many years to come.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Art Atlas:

"Through the innovative use of maps, The Art Atlas clearly illustrates that, at bottom, art is and always has been a global affair. Explores the relationship between art and local geography/culture in an excitingly new way. A must for every art classroom and library, a host of scholars make this a fine text for either art or social study class. Excellent reproductions; highly recommended. *****" — Art Times

"The sheer range of information and tabulated detail is staggering, useful and informative." — Art Monthly

"There is no living scholar who could know more than a fraction of what is contained here." — Times Higher Education Supplement

"Highly recommended. All libraries; all levels." — Choice

"The searchable CD-ROM offers additional access beyond the already details index." — Library Journal

Library Journal

This new version of what Oxford published as the Atlas of World Art in 2004 (LJ7/04) provides the same content as the original but at a greatly reduced price (the first edition was priced at $160). The accompanying CD-ROM includes the text and maps of the entire book in one PC- and Mac-compatible PDF file with full searching capability, minus the illustrations. Onians (world art, emeritus, Univ. of East Anglia) has assembled the contributions of 68 British and North American specialists into a unique publication. The more than 300 full-color maps illustrate the geographical, environmental, and political factors that have influenced the evolution of art as an expression of human culture, tracing the migrations of artists and art movements across the planet. The book is divided into seven historical sections (e.g., "Art, Hunting and Gathering, 40,000-5000 BC"; "Art, Agriculture and Urbanization, 5000-500 BC"; "Art, Exploitation and Display, 1500-1800"; "Art, Ideas and Technology, 1900-2000"), each introduced by the editor. The broad scope of coverage and the clear attempt to avoid Eurocentricity result in a general overview of art currents by geographical region or country.
—Edward K. Werner

Product Details

Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 13.25(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Art Atlas

By John Onians

Abbeville Press

Copyright © 2008 John Onians
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7892-0961-0

Excerpt from The Art Atlas

Art, Ideas and Technology 1900-2000

Art has always been connected to the worlds of ideas and technology, but in the twentieth century the connections tightened. Indeed for many the ‘idea’ has been that twentieth century art should directly reflect technology, and this notion lay behind American skyscrapers, Italian Futurism, Russian Constructivism and the International Modernist architecture of the Bauhaus and Le Corbusier before the Second World War, and Jean Tinguely's motorized sculptures, Nam Jun Paik’s video installations and Tony Oursler’s projections after it. One reason why this convergence occurred was because, thanks to new technologies, ideas could be disseminated much quicker and more effectively than before. Another was that some of these technologies, such as those of the cinema, television and computer screen, are themselves visual.

Of the many other ideas that affected twentieth century art, none were more recurrent than those of nationalism and internationalism. The search for visual expressions of national or regional identity, which has roots in tendencies humans share with other animals and has long been important in culture, strengthened in the nineteenth century before further intensifying in the twentieth. For many communities, as in the countries of eastern Europe that acquired independence after 1918, the starting point was a new awareness of vernacular and folk traditions, but in Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany new political and moral ideologies were also involved. Outside Europe, on the other hand, where the suppression of local artistic traditions had been part of the policy both of colonial powers and of the classes that succeeded them, aesthetic and political ideologies were more likely to be combined in some revival of local cultural traditions, as in the Mexican revival of Aztec and the Indian revival of Hindu imagery. In such movements are was an important way for a people to strengthen its sense of a political identity recovered after Independence. The vigorous new regional and ethnic art forms that emerged after 1950 were ore economically driven, only loosely inspired by earlier traditions that were fostered and marketed, often by just one or two individuals. Prominent examples are the stone sculptures of the Canadian Inuit, of the Shona in present-day Zimbabwe and of the Makonde on the borders between Tanzania and Mozambique. But the most successful, perhaps because painting is always liable to be taken more seriously than sculpture, has been the acrylic paintings of the Australian Aborigines which, since 1970, have allowed male and female members of one of the world's most victimized communities isolated in the desert to become world-famous celebrities. These successes, however, have not been easy. For many ethnic communities the regional arts are much lower in the scale than art that claims to be international, as does that displayed in the great international exhibitions in the tradition of the Venice Biennale. Artists represented in such venues, whose work may consciously betray a background in the savannah of Africa or the jungles of Southeast Asia, often prefer to play down their origins and claim instead to be artists in a sense that corresponds to some transcendent European and US norm. Their overriding idea is that they are not craftsman, but ‘artists’.

One of the sources of the concept of an ‘international’ art is the socialist theory of a worldwide human community, and socialism, in its different forms, has been the idea shaping the work of many individuals and movements. Sometimes it has been associated with conservative tendencies, as in the Soviet Union, where, after the brief innovative episode of Constructivism, there was a move to Socialist Realism with its nineteenth-century roots. The same style was then taken up by many other countries in the Russian orbit, and when China became Communist in 1948 it, too, adapter the same mode until after the Cultural Revolution. Sometimes socialism has been associated with more progressive tendencies, as with the worldwide post-Second World War diffusion of architecture in concrete, a material untainted by elitist associations and inherently sharing properties with the ‘masses’. Le Corbusier was the leader in this trend but he also had many local followers, such as Oscar Niemeyer in Brasilia. Other types of art driven by socialist political ideas were the more aggressive mural art of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the softer, but still threatening, art of Latinos in the United States. Less necessarily political has been the much longer tradition of Black or African-American art, which now has its parallels in Britain and elsewhere and in art of People of Colour by immigrants from Asia and Africa. Another art which may be more or less political is that driven by the idea of feminism, which emerged strongly in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, before manifesting itself in most other countries in an effort to reclaim an activity from which women have been systematically excluded. Around the world art has now been harnessed to a myriad causes or ‘ideas’.

Finally, there are categories of art that relate to an idea embedded in art-making itself. Dada set out to smash artistic norms, while Surrealism, taking its cue from Sigmund Freud's writing on dreams, sought to give all forms of creativity a new starting point in the unconscious. These two connected movements were centered on Europe and the United States, the post-Second World War Conceptual Art—which typically argues that art is less about making, and more about an idea—has, from the beginning, engaged artists worldwide. Its success, like that of so-called Post-Modernist art, often depends on the use of different technologies, videos, lights, lasers, and even containers of formaldehyde. As such it illustrates to what extent, by 2000, art was often only an idea embedded in a technology.


Excerpted from The Art Atlas by John Onians. Copyright © 2008 John Onians. Excerpted by permission of Abbeville Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John Onians is Professor of Visual Arts at the School of World Art Studies and Museology at the University of East Anglia. He is the author of Art and Thought in the Hellenistic Age: The Greek World View, 350-50 BC (1979), Bearers of Meaning: The Classical Orders in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (1988) and editor of Sight and Insight: Essays on Art and Culture in Honour of E. H. Gombrich at 85 (1994). He was also the founding editor of the prestigious journal Art History.

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