Yep, publishers sure do make some interesting calls in terms of what they choose to include in books. In the case of Art, though, it can be a little trickier.
An Art History book should be comprehensive and well-rounded, to be sure. But, what happens when it focuses more on obscure artists than those who have been such a huge part of the canon that they continue to influence the works of contemporary artists. Do we discount them solely on the grounds of bringing in lesser-known artists all for the sake of being PC?
Now, I certainly understand that any canon is kept alive and propagated through the typical pedagogy that runs rampant in the educational systems. But, when learning a history of something, should we really disregard the history in our own backyard in favor of some distant artist whose work never influenced any other artists except for a few local tribes near them?
Something to think about. The idea of choosing distant artists to study over those in your own region is somewhat alienating. It says that the art from your neck of the woods is bourgeois and unimportant, that if you want to view real art you need to flee your own town.
I know it's off-tangent, but taking this approach to teaching art history parallels the current trend of going out and adopting babies from any country but your own. It's a bit heartless to step over unwanted children in your own land to seek out those you think are more deserving in a foreign land.
I strongly believe you should teach the history the students are most likely to encounter where they live first, then teach the history of distant lands. Treat "Local" art history as the basics, then teach "distant/exotic" art history as new worlds to explore.
2008-08-04 08:56:29 Posted by roguewriter ()
Who is to say who influences who?
Picasso apparently was influences by African tribal art, Braque, Matisse and various others... Indeed he developed a reputation as being a ripoff artist. Braque and Matisse might be in the same book, but shouldn't there be some examples of African tribal work, perhaps even from Picasso's private collection?
If an art history book says "A Complete History of Art" as its title, you'd think it would be comprehensive, but if its only European and American art they should have changed the title to "A Complete History of Western Art"... and depending on what they are skipping over, get rid of the word Complete.
2008-08-04 11:24:56 Posted by Charles ()
You can't deny the power of pedagogy, for better or for worse. But, I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say that books should get rid of "Complete" from the titles. No anthology is ever complete, to be sure. Think of how huge the book would have to be to qualify for that nomenclature.
Picasso ran on the shirt tails of the whole Primitivism movement that art, literature and music had already explored. I guess he must have just had some great representation. Isn't that how most artists and writers end up getting famous?
For a much more comprehensive art history book, I recommend "Art History" by Marilyn Stokstad. Although she does pay a little extra attention to Western art toward the end of the book, she explores other cultures, too. Like Art of India before 1100, Art of the Americas before 1300, Chinese Art Before 1280... And much more. I would call that pretty comprehensive. It's a hefty book, too.
Ultimately, I think that content decisions publishers make, though, are based on a major vs. minor basis. Who is the most well known and who had the most oft cited influence on well-known artists? Hence the vicious wheel of pedagogy keeps on turnin'.
As for the neglected artists and art forms, that's where the specialized art courses and books come in to play. If you want an even deeper understanding or exploration of a particular form of art, look to other sources.
In the meantime, these "comprehensive" books do a good job presenting the major figures in art. Think of the books more as primers than complete studies and you might not get so aggravated at what's missing from them.
And, Charles, I hope you understand that I'm just engaging in some good-old fashioned discourse with you here, and on other comments I leave here. Thanks for replying to them. I enjoy the debate. :)
2008-08-05 10:08:20 Posted by roguewriter ()