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Summer Reading #2: Modern and Contemporary Surveys

For our second reading list, we've decided to present a collection of survey books on modern and contemporary Western Art.

The survey book is a necessary part of most undergraduate courses in Art History. It’s almost always the basis of the introductory survey class (which spans from ancient art to the present) and most American students of art history have relied on either Marilyn Stokstad’s Art History, H.W. Janson’s History of Art and Gardner’s Art Through the Ages for these courses.

As for modern and contemporary art classes however, professors have often sought to move away from the survey text in order to teach a more unstructured version of history, or one less tethered to dates than to themes and ideas. A basic reason for this is art historians are still trying figure out how to explain what has just happened and what is currently happening. As well, surveys have to generalize, and such generalizations often omit important specifics. 

At the same time, students still continue to seek out surveys—maybe now more than ever. Surveys are valued for their ability to provide a breadth of material to a new student of the subject, important social, cultural, and political context, as well as a sampling of various lenses through which art is understood.

As before, please feel free to write to us and tell us what surveys you would add. (And we should note, we added a few books which are not strictly surveys but which are great anthologies of artists' writings and theoretical texts.)

History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture by Harvard Arnason

Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being by Jonathan Fineberg

Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, second edition, vols. 1-2 by Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, David Joselit

The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes

Realism, rationalism, surrealism: art between the wars by Briony Fer, David Batchelor and Paul Wood

Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction: The Early Twentieth Century by Gill Perry, Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison

Modernity and Modernism: French Painting in the Nineteenth Century by Francis Frascina, Tamar Garb, Nigel Blake and Briony Fer

Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions that Made Art History (vols.1-2) by Bruce Altshuler

Art of the Postmodern Era: From the late 1960s to the Early 1990s by Irving Sandler

Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas by Paul Wood et al.

Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics by Herschel B. Chipp

Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz

After Modern Art, 1945-2000 by David Hopkins

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