Below is an offer a selection of books to look at before you begin your course this Autumn. They are not set texts, and they are not necessarily connected to the specific courses you will study. Rather than reading to accumulate knowledge, try to use these books to acquire some background on the texts on which many images are based (e.g. the Bible, Ovid), on how art history is practiced and has been written, and on historical background. Obviously, we do not expect you to have read all (or even many) of them, but try to read some.
Art History – some key texts and approaches
There are now many good primers on ways of studying art history; some include key texts with some discussion, others seek to describe and analyse the different approaches (such as biography, formal analysis, style, semiotics, iconography, aesthetics, deconstruction, psychoanalysis and gender studies). Among those available I recommend:
- Klonk, M. Hatt, Art History: A critical introduction to its methods (Manchester, 2006)
- Fernie, Art History and its Methods, a Reader (1995)
- Preziosi, The Art of Art History (Oxford, 1998 and new eds)
For a very different approach, try:
- Kirsch and R.S. Levenson, Seeing through Paintings. Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies (New Haven and London 2000), which shows what kinds of things can be learnt from technical examination.
Writing art history
Remind yourself of proper punctuation, language and writing style with:
- Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (London, 2003)
- Partridge, Usage and Abusage (various editions) is a very useful handbook of proper English usage.
- A, d’Alleva, How to Write Art History (London 2006 and recent new edition).
Recognizing Subject Matter
To remind yourself of some basic religious iconography, read the Bible (especially the books of Genesis, Judges, and I Kings in the Old Testament; and one of the Gospels in the New Testament, as well as the Acts and Revelations). See also B. Williamson, Christian Art, A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford 2004).
For classical iconography, see Ovid, made most accessible in T. Hughes, Tales from Ovid (London 1997).
Once you are at the Institute you will have access to other resources in the library and on-line which include very useful guides to particular iconographies and stories.
Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists, various editions (eg Penguin Classics). Read a selection to remind yourself where art history began. The lives of Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo are some of the most famous and central, but try some of the shorter lives too.
Some historical texts/background
- M. Roberts, The Penguin History of Europe (Harmondsworth, 2004).
- Davies, Europe: A History (London, 1997).
- Spufford, Power and Profit, The Merchant in Medieval Europe (London 2002) – a wonderful read and a tour de force of research.
- Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (London 1994).
Period-specific art history texts
There are some very good ‘survey’ texts covering some of the areas you will be taught in the foundations course: a selection is below, some of which are written by Courtauld staff, past and present, several from the Oxford History of Art series. Others are more specialized but still wide ranging and often very influential. As you will find, there is little time to read extra material as the foundations course is actually happening alongside your other courses so any reading done on this now will be very useful.
- Beard and J. Henderson, Classical Art: From Greece to Rome (Oxford, 2001)
- Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph (Oxford 2000)
- Lowden, Early Christian and Byzantine Art (London, 1997)
- Coldstream, Medieval Architecture (Oxford 2002)
- Camille, Gothic Art (London, 1996).
- Martindale, The Rise of the Artist (1972)
- Nash, Northern Renaissance Art (Oxford 2008)
- Welch, Italian Renaissance Art (Oxford 1997)
- Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style, 2nd ed., (Oxford, 1988). This short text has been very influential and is very readable
- Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the 17th Century (Chicago, 1983)
- Crow, Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris (New Haven and London, 1985)
- Solkin, Painting for Money (New Haven and London, 1993)
- Brettel, Modern Art 1850-1929 (Oxford 1999)
- Green, Art in France 1900-1940 (New Haven and London, 2001)
- Hopkins, After Modern Art (Oxford, 2000)
- Stallabrass, High Art Lite (1996) also Contemporary Art. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2006)
- Applin, Eccentric Objects: Rethinking Sculpture in 1960s America(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012)