The Books That Shaped Art History is a weighty, beautifully produced and highly learned meta-history of art, covering sixteen ground-breaking books from the field.
Over its chapters the two editors and the authors – one per book – review, analyse and justify their roster of the most important writings on art, précising the major points and relating the books both to their wider historical contexts and in particular their place in the timeline of art history.
The works are taken originally from the ambitious series Art History Reviewed in The Burlington Magazine, and cover treatises on painting, drawing, architecture and design, chronologically going from Emile Mâle’s scholarly 1898 study of the religious iconography of the Middle Ages through to Hans Belting’s 1990 opus Bild und Kult and ranging throughout from single-artist monographs to analyses of entire movements.
The well anthologised tome lays out this wide remit very coherently, not least due to John-Paul Stonard’s introduction. The book also has the wonderful gift of infectious scholarship, successively provoking an interest both in the subject book and in that book’s subject.
The books themselves are a disparate ensemble and it is likely that you will own some of them – possibly have grown up with them – so to have them clearly rationalised, explained and contextualised will be welcome.