The History of Western Art in Comics Part One: From Prehistory to the Renaissance

Holiday House. Jul. 2021. 96p. tr. from French by George L. Newman . Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780823446452; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780823446469.
Gr 4-6–Two young white Parisians squiring their grandfather through the Louvre and nearby museums serves as the frame story for this highlights reel of European and ancient Middle Eastern art, so it’s logical, if limiting, to select works that are nearly all French, Italian, or currently in museum collections in those countries. Artwork on display ranges from carved “Venus” figurines and other prehistoric works to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Glances at milestones in architecture, book arts, and stained glass do expand the general focus on painting and sculpture; better yet, in both the running narrative and the declamatory remarks of the artists and onlookers, Augustin enriches the flow of name checks with notes on watershed stylistic shifts (“Zeus’s thunder!” exclaims the admirer of a Greek vase. “It’s the beginning of a revolution in Greek art! To show what the eye perceives!”), new media, and technical advances. Time lines reinforce the presentation’s chronological structure; occasional footnotes and a glossary at the end will help out readers a bit hazy on the meanings of terms like basilica or contrapposto; and a closing section features small photos of major pieces with additional descriptive notes.
VERDICT A sweeping but strongly Eurocentric overview, most usefully paired with DK’s Children’s Book of Art or another wide-angled survey.

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