Asian Art: A New, Much Needed Textbook on Asian Art That Does Not Disappoint

Average: 5 (1 vote)



Authors Dorinda Neave, Lara Blanchard, and Marika Sardar have completed an excellent and much needed survey of Asian art in their jointly produced text book, simply titled, Asian Art. The publication is organized regionally, with the various regions then being treated chronologically. The discipline of Art History benefits greatly from the work of these three women authors, who bravely undertook the daunting task of tackling the creation of a new survey of Asian art. Because Art History in the United States and Europe has traditionally manifested itself as the study of Western European art, created by white, male artists, the relatively new focus on Asian art has yielded a field with findings that are constantly changing and being reworked. As such, the idea of taking on the creation of a large, far-reaching text on Asian art is an intimidating one, since one’s work often faces the possibility of imminent discrediting. Indeed, the last text book of such a nature was written nearly 30 years ago—no short time in the world of academia.
The book is successful in following current trends in scholarly writing, such as examining groups on the margins of society. Women and those who do not occupy the highest of echelons of society are explored, which is not surprising since the authors, themselves, are women. As such, we get an interesting glimpse into the world of those whose spheres are represented not nearly often enough, though this is changing.
The text is comprehensive, exploring an impressively large number of cultures and periods in a surprisingly few number of pages (381, excluding the glossary/appendix), but it is also successful in maintaining an accessible tone. The book is aware of its audience—the American college student who has no experience with Asian art, or even most European art, for that matter. The book is interesting, engaging, and comprehensible, even as it tackles complex realities regarding the diffusion of the various aspects of Asian cultures. As such, the book makes the intimidating field of Asian Art History accessible, while also communicating its richness and complexity.
The book is careful to avoid being a dry list of dates and names, but, rather, it presents gorgeous works of art in extremely high quality through the various lenses of religion, exchange, culture, and gender, thus putting a human face on these great works of art. As such, I would highly recommend this as a text for use in a college or high school AP Art History course. It can be read easily while it also addresses intricate material. It is well organized, well-researched, and highly engaging, and, in reality, there are not many other options beyond it!