An Introduction to Art New Edition Charles Harrison

Publication date:
10 Mar 2020
Yale University Press
344 pages: 254 x 190mm
250 color illus.
Sales territories:


At once engaging, personal, and analytical, this book provides the intellectual resources for the critical understanding of art

Charles Harrison’s landmark book offers an original, clear, and wide-ranging introduction to the arts of painting and sculpture, to the principal artistic print media, and to the visual arts of modernism and post-modernism. Covering the entire history of art, from Paleolithic cave painting to contemporary art, it provides foundational guidance on the basic character and techniques of the different art forms, on the various genres of painting in the Western tradition, and on the techniques of sculpture as they have been practiced over several millennia and across a wide range of cultures. Throughout the book, Harrison discusses the relative priorities of aesthetic appreciation and historical inquiry, and the importance of combining the two approaches. Written in a style that is at once graceful, engaging, and personal, as well as analytical and exact, this illuminating book offers an impassioned and timely defense of the importance and value of the firsthand encounter with works of art, whether in museums or in their original locations.

Charles Harrison (1942–2009) was professor emeritus at the Open University and had previously held positions at the University of Chicago, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Getty Research Institute. 

"Read An Introduction to Art and then visit your favourite gallery – I guarantee you won’t look at the artworks quite the same ever again."—Charles Willmott, Artists & Illustrators

"It is hard to think of a book with such a broad range which succeeds as well in equipping beginning students and general readers to think intelligently and fruitfully about art."—John Hyman, University of Oxford

"This sprawling book—an introduction to the experience and history of sculpture, painting, and prints—presents nothing less than a rethinking of the way art is approached both in literal and figurative terms: how is it seen in a museum? And, how is it to be described by the art historian and the 'lay' museum-goer?"—Christopher Heuer, Princeton University

"Anyone familiar with the history and criticism of modern art will know that Harrison’s credentials are unsurpassed for the task he sets himself in An Introduction to Art. This book exceeds expectations in every respect. The breadth of materials handled by the author—and the clarity of his claims about them—make this book illuminating for students, useful for teachers, and a welcome alternative to other introductory texts. Most importantly, it is original in its approach and compelling in its expression."—Michael Schreyach, Trinity University

"This book is made up of absolutely superb and foundational discussions and arguments."—Susan Hollis Clayson, Northwestern University

"The book is tremendously successful as a narrative about contemplating why one bothers to look at art . . . Harrison’s aphoristic economy positively influences the readerly experience in many ways—most of all, it produces a tone that is relaxed and conversational, yet also probing and serious."—Matthew Jesse Jackson, University of Chicago