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Thomas Hoving's personal choice of the
Greatest Works of Art of Western Civilization


Artisan Books, 1997
 
The Greatest Works of Art of Western Civilization Thomas Hoving is a fabulously entertaining writer who does as good as job as anyone could at selecting the greatest works (111, by my count) of Western art. "Western", in this context, is taken to mean everything except the art of Japan and China and the Far East.

One assumes his taste is beyond impeccable: son of the chairman of Tiffany's, he earned a PhD in art history and became a curator in the Medieval department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, later heading the museum for a controversial decade. He subsequently served as editor-in-chief at Connoisseur magazine. Yet all his life he has acted as a popularizer of great art, even writing the Art for Dummies book.

The best part of the book is Hoving's insightful commentary, but copyright concerns of course prevent me from quoting him at any length. However, simple lists of contents are specifically excluded from copyright protection, so I am free to provide a kind of Table of Contents for the book.

The works are listed here in chronological order. I have found online illustrations for all but a couple of the works, in some cases offering much more thorough documentation of the pieces than the book is able to. Plus in some (disappointingly few) cases, there is a poster of the artwork in print. Links have been added in these cases. Artwork names, dates and locations are generally taken from online sources, so this information may vary slightly from what is published in the book.

If you find this feature to be of interest, I strongly suggest you buy the book. The commentary and the large photographs of every artwork are well worth the price. Plus it's 30% off at Amazon.com.
 
 
Hoving's Choices:
 
• Ancient Art Through the Classical Era

• The Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance

• The High Renaissance and the Late Renaissance

• The Baroque and Rococo Eras

• The Nineteenth Century

• The Twentieth Century



Notably NOT included in the list below are the Venus de Milo, Michelangelo's Pietà and Sistine Chapel ceiling, Leonardo's Mona Lisa, and anything by Klimt, Holbein, Chagall, van Dyck or Monet. If you see any shocking omissions, send me an email telling me what belongs on this list and why. If I get enough feedback, I'll do a follow-up piece on the works Hoving overlooked, quoting some of the best responses.
 
 
Acknowledgements: Many of the images above are found at Carol Gerten's Fine Art and Mark Harden's Artchive. The image quality they achieve is rarely equalled by art museum websites. A special thanks should go to Emil Kren for the work he puts into his Web Gallery of Art. With the narrative text he provides and his attention to detail (multiple views of statues, documention of every panel of altarpieces), his site is an incredible resource.

 - John Malyon




 

Past Articles

July, 2002
      Celebrating Heroes; Celebrating Benjamin West, by Joseph Phelan

June, 2002
      Chasing the Red Deer into the American Sublime (Education and the Art Museum, Part II), by Joseph Phelan

May, 2002
      Planning Your Summer Vacation, by Joseph Phelan

March, 2002
      Education and the Art Museum, Part I, by Joseph Phelan

February, 2002
      Unsung Griots of American Painting, by Joseph Phelan

January, 2002
      The British Museum COMPASS Project, interview by Joseph Phelan
      Robert Hughes, Time Magazine Art Critic: Biography and Writings
      Lifestyle: Online Casinos Finally Get Real

December, 2001
      Advent Calendar 2001, narrated by Joseph Phelan
      Software review: Le Louvre: The Virtual Visit on DVD-ROM, by Joseph Phelan

November, 2001
      Tragedy and Triumph at Arles: Van Gogh and Gauguin, by Joseph Phelan

October, 2001
      Her Last Bow: Sister Wendy in America, by Joseph Phelan

September, 2001
      Love, Death and Resurrection: The Paintings of Stanley Spencer, by Joseph Phelan

August, 2001
      Who is Rodin's Thinker?, by Joseph Phelan

July, 2001
      Celebrations North and South, by Joseph Phelan

June, 2001
      Rubens and his Age, by Joseph Phelan

May, 2001
      Great Reproductions of Great Paintings

April, 2001
      The Passion of Christ, by Joseph Phelan

March, 2001
      Edouard Manet: Public Spaces, Private Dreams, by Joseph Phelan

February, 2001
      Henry Moore and the British Museum: The Great Conversation, by Joseph Phelan

December, 2000
      Advent Calendar 2000, narrated by Joseph Phelan

November, 2000
      Article: Notorious Portraits, Part II, by John Malyon

October, 2000
      Article: Notorious Portraits, Part I, by John Malyon
      Article: The Other Michelangelo, by Joseph Phelan

September, 2000
      Article: The Art of Drawing, by Joseph Phelan

August, 2000
      Article: Poussin and the Heroic Landscape, by Joseph Phelan

July, 2000
      Article: Great Art Museums Online, by Joseph Phelan

June, 2000
      Article: Venetian Painting and the Rise of Landscape, by Joseph Phelan

May, 2000
      Article: Forbidden Visions: Mythology in Art, by Joseph Phelan

April, 2000
      Article: Themes in Art: The Passion of Christ, by Joseph Phelan
      Web site review: Christus Rex

March, 2000
      Web site review: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., by Joseph Phelan
      Online exhibit review: Inuit Art: The World Around Me, by John Malyon

February, 2000/Poll: Who is Producing the Most Interesting Art Today? (Results)

January, 2000/Poll: Who is Producing the Most Interesting Art Today? (Part II)

December, 1999/Poll: Who is Producing the Most Interesting Art Today? (Part I)

November, 1999/The Louvre Museum
      Web site review: The Louvre

October, 1999/Impressionism
      Web site review: North Carolina Museum of Art

September, 1999/Optical Art
      Web site review: The Butler Institute of American Art

August, 1999/Animals in Art
      Web site review: National Museum of Wildlife Art
      Online exhibit review: PBS: American Visions

July, 1999/Surrealism

June, 1999/Sculpture
      Web site review: Carol Gerten's Fine Art
      Online exhibit review: Michael Lucero: Sculpture 1976-1995

May, 1999/Women in the Arts
      Web site review: National Museum of Women in the Arts
      Online exhibit review: Jenny Holzer: Please Change Beliefs

April, 1999/The Golden Age of Illustration
      Web site review: Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco
      Online exhibit review: Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe online

March, 1999/Vincent van Gogh
      Web site review: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
      Web site review: The Vincent van Gogh Information Gallery

February, 1999/Great Art
      Web site review: The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
      Online exhibit review: John Singleton Copley: Watson and the Shark