Overview

Stories of Art is James Elkins's intimate history of art. Concise and original, this engaging book is an antidote to the behemoth art history textbooks from which we were all taught. As he demonstrates so persuasively, there can never be one story of art. Cultures have their own stories - about themselves, about other cultures - and to hear them all is one way to hear the multiple stories that art tells. But each of us also has our own story of art, a kind of private art history made up of the pieces we have ...

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Stories of Art

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Overview

Stories of Art is James Elkins's intimate history of art. Concise and original, this engaging book is an antidote to the behemoth art history textbooks from which we were all taught. As he demonstrates so persuasively, there can never be one story of art. Cultures have their own stories - about themselves, about other cultures - and to hear them all is one way to hear the multiple stories that art tells. But each of us also has our own story of art, a kind of private art history made up of the pieces we have seen, and loved or hated, the effects they had on us, and the connections that might be drawn among them.


Elkins opens up the questions that traditional art history usually avoids. What about all the art not produced in Western Europe or in the Europeanized Americas? Is it possible to include Asian art and Indian art in ‘the story?’ What happens when one does? To help us find answers, he uses both Western and non-Western artworks, tables of contents from art histories written in cultures outside the centre of Western European tradition, and strangely wonderful diagrams of how artworks might connect through a single individual. True multiculturalism may be an impossibility, but art lovers can each create a ‘story of art’ that is right for themselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An investigation into the way art history is shaped by the culture compiling it. Elkins (Art History/School of the Art Institute of Chicago) focuses on the various ways the history of art can be presented, each with its strong points and failings. He begins with what is considered by many to be the canon of art history texts, E.H. Gombrich's The Story of Art, a hefty tome first published in 1950 and continually updated with ever more full-color plates. Using sketches of his own and those of his students to illustrate alternatives to the standard chronology of the historical time line, Elkins proposes a number of thought-provoking ways to organize the stories of art that are not based on a strict adherence to dates, many of which can only be surmised. This approach seems at times merely a deft preemption of a summons from the PC police to whom the only proper story of art is one that literally includes all art. While such a volume would sidestep the pitfalls of the male Christian Eurocentrism that has purportedly subjugated art history since its inception during the Renaissance, the author points out that not only would no bookshelf be able to support "the weight of pedagogy" of an absolute multiculturalism, but without some organizing principle, no one would be able to distinguish among the "cacophony of isms" that would result. Among the viable models Elkins covers: oscillating history of alternating classical and baroque periods, the customary outline style, and an organic approach, proposing that a culture's art history emulates the stages of human life: infantia, adulescentia, maturitas, and senectus. Yet despite our "continuous reshaping of the past" through psychoanalyticalapproaches, deconstructionism, semiotics, historiography, and "even more abstruse doctrines," Elkins admits "how deeply Western the discipline of art history still remains." One wonders, ultimately, whether the debate may not be rendered entirely moot by the current globalization of the art scene. An intriguing series of thought experiments that begin to wear a little thin.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781135206581
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 10/18/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

James Elkins is Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the author of many books. Among is books are Pictures and Tears, How to Use Your Eyes, and What Painting Is, all published by Routledge.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword
1 Intuitive Stories 1
2 Old Stories 39
3 New Stories 57
4 Non-European Stories 89
5 Perfect Stories 117
References and Further Reading 155
Index 171
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