The History of Western Art

  • by Peter Whitfield
  • Narrated by Sebastian Comberti
  • 5 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

What is art? Why do we value images of saints, kings, goddesses, battles, landscapes or cities from eras of history utterly remote from ourselves? This history of art shows how painters, sculptors and architects have expressed the belief systems of their age: religious, political and aesthetic.
From the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, to the revolutionary years of the 19th and 20th centuries, the artist has acted as a mirror to the ideals and conflicts of the human mind. He has always started with reality, but has selected and reshaped that reality to create a parallel world; a world of the imagination.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Peter Whitfield offers a whirlwind tour of “The History of Western Art”. He begins with cave paintings and ends with performance art by an “artist” locked in a library with a wild animal. The distressing thought is that “art is anything you can get away with.”

In slightly more than five hours of narration, a listener traverses 30,000 years (some say 40,000 years) of art history. Whitfield is a poet and critic. “The History of Art” is an intelligent introduction to a mystifying, fascinating, and intimidating subject.

At the end, one wonders whether art is entering a new dark age where the value of art is degraded by technology that makes too much of medium as message. Art needs to be more than a transaction between willing seller and buyer.

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A whirlwind tour of Western art

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to refresh their previous study of art history, as well as to students who need a concise introduction. Tourists can benefit from the book also: it is a valuable adjunct to European museum visits and city walks. Whitfield takes us on a whirlwind tour of major artistic themes and styles, mostly European, from cave paintings to the edge of postmodernism. Comberti's reading is pleasant and well-paced. The only thing that's missing: the paintings themselves. Having a visual art reference on hand is recommended. I'm an artist, so the subject fascinates me. But I believe anyone can benefit from reading this accessible guide, free from pretentious "art speak."
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- Die Falknerin

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-16-2011
  • Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks