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The dictionary of art /

Other Authors: Turner, Jane, 1956-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Grove, 1996
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Review by Choice Review

Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines an "encyclopedia" as "a work that treats comprehensively all the various branches of knowledge, and that is usually composed of individual articles arranged alphabetically," while a "dictionary" is a "reference book containing words usually alphabetically arranged, along with information about their forms, pronunciations, functions, etymologies, meaning, and syntactical and idiomatic uses." Setting aside the misnaming of The Dictionary of Art, this monumental multivolume reference work is, in every other way, an extraordinary achievement. The Dictionary is the largest and most comprehensive reference tool on the visual arts that has ever been published. Unlike earlier art dictionaries and encyclopedias, such as Encyclopedia of World Art (CH, Mar'69) or McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Art (CH, Mar'70), the Dictionary places equal emphasis on Western and non-Western cultures, the decorative arts, and contemporary art and artists. Since the task of reviewing such a work was considered too large for an individual reviewer, a small team (consisting of Ross Day, Linda Seckelson, Kenneth Soehner, and Doralynn Pines, all of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) was assembled to offer critiques of specific articles and of the overall organization of the Dictionary. The reviewers read related articles and followed cross-references to other topics, including biographies, cities, cultures, and artistic terms and concepts, noting the quality and clarity of the writing, the choice of photographs, and bibliographic citations. The team found articles to be well written, accessible to specialists and nonspecialists alike, but with a British preference for authors and spellings. Longer articles use a consistent pattern of outlining from broader to narrower topics. The 34 volumes contain 45,000 signed articles written by 6,700 scholars from more than 120 countries. Individual articles cover cities, countries, and artistic terms, but the greatest number consists of biographies totaling slightly less than half the entries. More than 300,000 bibliographic citations are appended to the ends of articles, or to sections of longer entries. Among the 15,000 images are black-and-white reproductions set within the articles, and sections of color plates interspersed within the appropriate volume. The images, of good quality, are perfectly acceptable for identification purposes. Numerous maps accompany articles on archaeological sites, cities, countries, and other geographical locations. The index, which fills the last volume, provides approximately 750,000 entries and is preceded by a lengthy introduction that describes its coverage, choice of headings, and alphabetization. Place-names follow UN conventions for modern country names. Names of groups (such as societies and architectural partnerships) and abstract concepts are also indexed. The first volume begins with a preface and an introduction. Although it is unlikely that anyone other than a reviewer would read straight through these pages, they are worth skimming, if only to understand how a reference work of this magnitude was created. The preface outlines when, how, and why the Dictionary was begun. The introduction includes explanations of alphabetization and terminology. Especially fascinating is a section outlining calendars and dates, noting the adoption of the Gregorian calendar and its exceptions. The arrangement of bibliographic citations is also clearly outlined. The acknowledgments that follow include not only the standard thanks, but also the names of the editorial advisory board, the area advisors, and other scholars who defined cultures and civilizations, regional surveys, art forms, and general issues. The scholars on the advisory board are identified by their institutional affiliations, but other authors are not, nor do affiliations appear in the extensive list of contributors in the appendix. The reviewers found this a serious lacuna. The appendixes in volume 33 are extraordinarily useful tools. Appendix A (p. 750-888) lists locations, with abbreviations and full forms, of the museums, galleries, and other institutions that own or display works of art. Appendix B (p. 889-960) includes the abbreviated and full forms of periodical titles cited in the bibliographies. Lists of standard reference books and series appear in appendix C. Volume 34 ends with another helpful appendix, listing non-Western dynasties and peoples. Charles Avery's article on Donatello (volume 9), is an excellent example of a longer biography, beginning with a table of contents, followed by the sections "Life and Work," "Working Methods and Techniques," "Character and Personality," and "Critical Reception and Posthumous Reception." The bibliographic citations are well chosen, and are broken into four groups: general, monographs, exhibition catalogues and congresses, and "Specialist Studies," including important articles. The introduction in volume 1 provides a lengthy explanation of cross-referencing, but the system is not as seamless as one would expect. Readers are told that the names of artists will appear in small capitals within an article to indicate the existence of another entry, but this signage is not always consistent. Readers are asked to assume that biographies exist for well-known artists, such as Michelangelo, even if their names are not capitalized. Unfortunately, t D. S. Pines The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Grove's Dictionary of Art has been preceded by more anticipation and described with more superlatives than any previous art publishing venture. In the works since 1982, the set consists of 41,000 signed articles contributed by 6,700 scholars from 120 countries, including all former Soviet republics. It includes more biographies (20,800) than any other English-language art publication, and its 15,000 illustrations are the "largest collection of images ever published in a single work." The dictionary is intended to provide comprehensive coverage of the visual arts of every culture and civilization from prehistory to the present. It is also an interdisciplinary source, examining works of art within the social, cultural, historical, religious, and economic contexts in which they were created. The most recent comparable work, The Encyclopedia of World Art (McGraw-Hill), was published in 1959. The Dictionary of Art is based on solid scholarship. Grove, the American reference publishing division of the U.K's Macmillan, established a precedent for excellence with its New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980). The Dictionary of Art's editor, Jane Shoaf Turner, has been on the editorial staff of the journal Apollo, was assistant curator of drawings and prints at the Pierpont Morgan Library, and was a cataloger in the department of Western art in the Ashmolean Museum. The advisory board included Byzantinist Oleg Grabar, Renaissance art historian Andre Chastel, and Gothic sculpture scholar Willibauld Sauerlander. Area advisers prepared outlines for longer chapters and identified potential contributors. Contributors were selected on the basis of their positions "in the forefront of research in his or her field." A list of contributors' names, but not affiliations or article titles, is published in an appendix. Contributors include Mary Ellen Miller of Yale University; Jeremy Sabloff, director of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania; and Prairie School scholar Paul Sprague. In addition to painters, printmakers, sculptors, and architects, biographies treat photographers, furniture makers, designers, metalsmiths, jewelers, conceptual artists, collectors, critics, patrons of the arts, and teachers. Selection was based on "scholarly and editorial judgement." The Board discovered few serious errors of omission. Samples indicate that the dictionary includes approximately 85 percent of the artists in Contemporary Artists (Gale, 1996) and Matthew Baigell's Dictionary of American Art (Harper and Row, 1979) and about 60 percent of those included in North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century by Jules and Nancy Heller (Garland, 1995). Among those omitted are Howardena Pindell, Grace Medicine Flower, and environmental artists Alan Sonfist and Helen and Newton Harrison. Biographies for the best-known artists are up to 30 pages in length (e.g., Michelangelo); those for contemporary artists are shorter. More twentieth-century artists are included than artists from any previous period. Biographies typically include nationality, place and date of birth and death, occupation, and a statement of the artist's significance. Longer articles include sections on life and work, working methods and technique, character and personality, critical reception, and posthumous reputation. Individual artists cannot be identified by medium unless they are mentioned in the articles on those topics. Although there is an article about silversmith Paul Revere, he is not listed under silver in the index nor is there any classified listing of artists that would help the reader identify him. The Dictionary of Art is intended to "take an entirely different approach from that of existing art reference works" in its coverage of architecture, photography, the decorative arts, and non-Western and traditional cultures. The only visual art form excluded from the dictionary is the history of filmmaking. The dictionary includes approximately 500 art

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Along with writing a great poem, producing a great reference work is probably one of humankind's highest intellectual achievements, at least in the opinion of many scholars and all librarians. Such a work is The Dictionary of Art. With 6700 contributors (a list that reads like a who's who of the world's experts), it covers all aspects of the visual arts in all places at all times, with a weather eye to the contemporary and a discerning eye to the non-Western arts. Coverage includes biographical, geographical, philosophical, and theoretical information, as well as forms and themes, social aspects, and cultural influences. It ranges from Julia Margaret Cameron to Shoji Hamada, Korea to Timbuktu, the Enlightenment to Marxism, and Yoruba Masks to Abstract Expressionism, stopping along the way to include contemporary Algerian graphic artists, the Japanese Grass and Earth Society of early 20th-century painters, conservation and forgery, patronage, and feminism. The entries all include useful bibliographies, and the vast array of images‘including artworks and objects, architectural designs and archaeological sites, maps and charts‘offer a unique visual record. The work reflects the vast changes in accessibility and attitudes that have so marked the past few decades and have changed the face of art history forever. Those remote regions, previously behind curtains of iron, geography, or intellect, unencountered or unconsidered, have all become available to the scholar, and any acceptable reference book must take note of this. That this is done with no disservice to the accumulated wisdom of the past and with a broad vision of the present is a major triumph for what will clearly be the outstanding art reference tool for many generations of scholars. The cross references are not always as complete as one would wish, requiring use of the index more frequently than is highly desirable. And the excessive parenthetical insertions in the articles are disconcerting to the eye. These are small caveats that in no way diminish the usefulness of the work. Unfortunately, biographical coverage of well-documented historical figures is variable, so don't even think of discarding Thieme-Becker or Benezit. But do start making room on your shelves for this work and beginning to form a Friends' committee to come up with the hefty price. Essential for every art, academic, and large public collection.‘Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.