The Oxford History of Western Art is a unique and authoritative account of the development of visual culture in the West over the last 2700 years, from the classical period to the end of the twentieth century.
OHWA takes a fresh look at how the history of art is presented and understood. It uses a carefully devised modular structure to offer readers powerful insights into how and why works of art were created.
This is not a simple, linear 'story' of art, but a rich series of stories, told from varying viewpoints. Carefully selected groups of pictures give readers a sense of the visual 'texture' of the periods and movements covered.
The 167 illustration groups, supported by explanatory text and captions, create a sequence of 'visual tours' - juxtapositions of significant images that convey a sense of the visual environments in which works of art were produced and viewed. The reader is invited to become an active participant in the process of interpretation.
Another key feature is the redefinition of traditional period boundaries. Rather than relying on conventional labels such as Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, etc., five major phases of significant historical change are established that unlock longer and more meaningful continuities:
The foundations: Greece and Rome c.600 BC-AD 410
Church and state: The establishing of visual culture 410-1527
The art of nations: European visual regimes 1528-1770
The era of revolutions 1770-1914
Modernism and after 1914-2000
This framework shows how the major religious and secular functions of art have been forged, sustained, transformed, revived, and revolutionized over the ages; how the institutions of church and state have consistently aspired to make art in their own image; and how the rise of art history itself has come to provide the dominant conceptual framework within which artists create, patrons patronize, collectors collect, galleries exhibit, dealers deal, and art historians write.
The text has been written by a team of 50 specialist authors working under the direction of Professor Martin Kemp, one of the UK's most distinguished art historians. While bringing their own expertise and vision to their sections, each author has also related their text to a number of unifying themes and issues, including written evidence, physical contexts, patronage, viewing and reception, techniques, gender and race, centres and peripheries, media and condition, the notion of 'art', and current presentations.
Though the coverage of topics focuses on European notions of art and their transplantation and transformation in North America, space is also given to cross-fertilizations with other traditions - including the art of Latin America, the Soviet Union, India, Africa, Australia, and Canada.
The applied arts and reproductive media such as photography and prints are also covered. The result is a fresh and vibrant account of Western art, which serves both as an inspirational introduction for the general reader and an authoritative source of reference and guidance for students.