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Book Review

Book: Sister Wendy's Story of Painting
Author: Sister Wendy Beckett
Published: 1994
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley

available at

Synopsis: Sister Wendy Beckett, a nun of the Notre Dame order and graduate of Oxford University, presents a chronicle of painting through the ages, beginning with prehistoric art and continuing through the twentieth century and beyond. Along with visual timelines, Sister Wendy offers an overview of the significant artists and paintings of each era and in-depth analyses of the world’s most famous paintings.

Editor’s Review: A 1¼ inch thick book with about 400 pages and more than 450 color illustrations of the most significant works of art in Western history can hardly fail to please anyone with an interest in art history. In Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, Sister Wendy provides an intellectual and somewhat passionate discussion on major art movements and sensitive analysis and interpretation of more than thirty paintings she showcases in the book. Enlargements of particular areas of these paintings are used to analyze techniques and identify symbolism. In the absence of ancient paintings that have survived, Sister Wendy uses other forms of art such as sculptures, friezes, tapestries and mosaics to illustrate the subject, composition, style and proportions used in paintings of that era. She treats all styles of art with equal reverence. Shortcomings in this book are few. Illustrated timelines that appear before each major section of the book could be improved by the addition of other historical milestones to help the reader achieve a better perspective. I would prefer less commentary about numerous paintings of a single artist and instead, more information on the cultural and political influences that shaped the development of painting. I would prefer less coverage of obscure artists such as the Nabis in favor of more on Victorian art and Art Nouveau. And I would wish for a more eloquent conclusion to the book. But the thing that was most lacking to me is a discussion on paint! Nowhere is the development of paint as a medium discussed with any depth. These aforementioned shortcomings, however, pale in comparison to what Sister Wendy has accomplished in her book -- the creation of a comprehensive and scholarly source of information on the history of painting that neither the newcomer nor the expert could fail to enjoy.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
   You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at