Everything I know about art (or did at the age of 15)
When I was a kid my mum enrolled on an Open University Course in the History of Art. One of the books that appeared on the bookshelves as a result was E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art. For a good eight or nine years, pretty much everything I knew about art came out of that book. My current copy is the third I’ve owned, and it’s still pretty indispensable.
The Story of Art, first published in 1950 (and updated regularly since) is a fantastic introduction to the world of art, from prehistoric cave paintings to modern art, Gombrich discusses the development or art, painting, sculpture, and architecture. It really is an invaluable resource – even in the age of the internet, and if you want to learn something about art, particularly in a broad sense, it’s hard to beat.
For me the Story of Art was a real introduction to renaissance art – Bernini, Titian, Bellini, Bosch, Van Eyck, Dürer, Holbein… The first time I saw many of the works of these artists was in the book, and it wasn’t until decades later I saw some of them in real life.
Years later when I was studying Art A Level, my teacher would read sections of The Story of Art to us, I think this was the history of art element of the A Level in its entirety. The thing was the teacher wasn’t really very good at pronunciation – so when she was reading sections on classical art, it was kind of hilarious. Heracles, became Herrackles, Hermes became Herms, Praxiteles became Pracsittles… Some things are just beyond the scope of Gombrich’s influence it seems.