Book Review

Petra ten-Doesschate Chu
Nineteenth-Century European Art

This refreshingly direct study addresses 19th-century European art along with the forces that informed it. After introducing historical events and cultural and artistic trends from about 1760 that would exert their influence well into the new century, author Petra ten-Doesschate Chu discusses the advent of Modernism and its many interpretations. She considers the changing relationship between artist and audience; evolving attitudes toward the depiction of nature; and the confrontation of European artists with non-Western art due to expanding trade and travel. An impressive 550 illustrations — 200 in full color — illustrate her themes.Incidents from individual artists’ lives enrich the reader’s understanding of the art, as do sidebars that focus on specific works, techniques, or historical circumstances. Although painting and sculpture are central in her narrative, Chu also covers a broad scope of visual culture, including architecture, decorative arts, and the burgeoning fields of photography and graphic design. A timeline, glossary, and thorough bibliography, listing not only books but also films related to the period, complete this major achievement.

This is the first book of art that I have read since going blind. It was surprisingly thorough in the descriptions of works that it covered.

I enjoyed the fact that they gave both a physical description and interpretation each of work. For the ones that I am familiar with, it showed me some things that I had apparently missed visually. If you are totally blind and have never studied art, I am not sure if you would get as much from the descriptions. However, if you are totally blind and have studied art, the descriptions will make you familiar with each piece that was discussed. It is written in an art history style and past experience in this area is most helpful.

Over-all, I enjoyed this book and hope others will get as much as I did out of the book.


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