The History of Western Art in Comics Part Two: From the Renaissance to Modern Art

Holiday House. Nov. 2021. 96p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780823446476; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780823446483.
Gr 4-6–“Now we’re in Italy, land of pizza and the Renaissance!” proclaims a bearded lecturer as he drives his two grandchildren through the Alps on a second leg of their tour of Western European art (following The History of Western Art in Comics Part One). Pizza may not get its due, but the Renaissance definitely does as great artists and major works of painting, sculpture, and architecture parade past in Heitz’s text-heavy cartoon panels—first in Italy, then to Germany, France, the Netherlands, and England as art movements pass through Baroque, Rococco, Neoclassical, Romantic, and Impressionist styles of expression and on into the 20th century. If readers run the risk of getting bogged down in the barrage of names (“Come on, Braque, let’s go to Vollard’s. He’s showing Cézanne.” “I’ll be right with you, Pablo”), two time lines and a closing section of closer looks at select works with photos help wrest the narrative into a coherent shape. Also, along with nods to significant technical advances, such as the invention of photography around 1840, there are also savvy insights into ways of looking at art. Still, neither art in the 21st century nor in America gets more than a brief glance (Indigenous art not even that), and the artists named are both dead and white (Jean-Michel Basquiat excepted), as well as overwhelmingly male. The lecturer and grandchildren are white.
VERDICT An accessible if conventionally Eurocentric overview of art history, informationally rich but best dished up with surveys that are broader in cultural scope and more focused on the current scene.

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