Art by Paul Johnson
A New History

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In Art: A New History, Paul Johnson turns his great gifts as a world historian to a subject that has enthralled him all his life: the history of art. This narrative account, from the earliest cave paintings up to the present day, has new things to say about almost every period of art. Taking account of changing scholarship and shifting opinions, he draws our attention to a number of neglected artists and styles, especially in Scandinavia, Germany, Russia and the Americas.

Paul Johnson puts the creative originality of the individual at the heart of his story. He pays particular attention to key periods: the emergence of the artistic personality in the Renaissance, the new realism of the early seventeenth century, the discovery of landscape painting as a separate art form, and the rise of ideological art. He notes the division of 'fashion art' and fine art at the beginning of the twentieth century, and how it has now widened.

Though challenging and controversial, Paul Johnson is not primarily a revisionist. He is a passionate lover of beauty who finds creativity in many places. With 300 colour illustrations, this book is vivid, evocative and immensely readable, whether the author is describing the beauty of Egyptian low-relief carving or the medieval cathedrals of Europe, the watercolours of Thomas Girtin or the utility of Roman bridges ('the best bridges in history'), the genius of Andrew Wyeth or the tranquility of the Great Mosque at Damascus, the paintings of Ilya Repin or a carpet-page from the Lindisfarne Gospels. The warmth and enthusiasm of Paul Johnson's descriptions will send readers hurrying off to see these wonders for themselves.


About Paul Johnson

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Paul Johnson lives in London.
Published September 30, 2003 by Harper. 792 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Art

The New York Times

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Collagist extraordinaire, correspondent of the first rank and founding father of mail art, Johnson was often called the most famous unknown artist in the art world.

May 19 1995 | Read Full Review of Art: A New History

The Guardian

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Art: A New History by Paul Johnson 800pp, Weidenfeld, £25 There are two ways, writes Paul Johnson, to look at the stained glass in Chartres cathedral.

Dec 27 2003 | Read Full Review of Art: A New History

Publishers Weekly

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Having produced in a fairly short span equally weighty histories of the Jewish diaspora, the modern world and America, as well as a number of smaller books and a stream of articles, near-septuagenarian Johnson, historian, journalist, conservative gadfly and Sunday painter, has produced a massive ...

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Huffington Post

(Fortunately the sales volume is a good metric to know if the brand is achieving its goals.) Microstyle certainly runs long in some places, especially for a self-professed minimalist, which makes one wonder if Johnson practices what he preaches (the likely reason being a business one by the pub...

Oct 09 2011 | Read Full Review of Art: A New History

Arts Fuse

One answer to the question of “Why two plays in verse?” might be that Denis Johnson is a writer relentlessly in pursuit of new forms, and new formal challenges—a literary daredevil always looking for a new vehicle to take for a thrill ride.

Oct 18 2012 | Read Full Review of Art: A New History

Broad Street Review

This time the Art Museum convinced the court to allow the Johnson collection to be broken up so that his paintings could be more effectively integrated into the museum’s overall collection, allowing (as the museum’s website puts it, “for a more unified presentation of European art between the 14t...

Jan 31 2013 | Read Full Review of Art: A New History

Blouin Artinfo

Both articles use “irresponsible generalities” and compare women and African-American artists to white male artists, “only to find them lacking.” The problem, the letter’s authors state, is that “Mr. Johnson organizes his review around an oversimplified opposition between the apolitical, ‘deracin...

Nov 27 2012 | Read Full Review of Art: A New History

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