A Journey Through Art: A Global Art Adventure

Image of A Journey Through Art: A Global History
Release Date: 
March 13, 2018
Thames & Hudson
Reviewed by: 

Targeted toward 8–12 year olds, A Journey Through Art takes a fresh and fun look at art throughout the eras and around the world.

This appealing and well-designed book is based on the three evenly represented timeframes listed in the table of contents: Prehistoric and Ancient (35,000 BCE– 900 CE), Medieval and Early Modern (1100–1700), and Modern and Contemporary (1800–2018). These groupings manage a vast amount of fascinating information, most of which will be new to this age group.

Promoting itself as part art history, part geography and part travel adventure, there is no denying this project delivers surprisingly well with all three. The historical information is plentiful yet somehow, perhaps due to adept organization, never feels overwhelming or condescending.

Rosen has been careful to consider multiple continents within each timeframe which makes it easier to conceptualize what was happening in the various artistic cultures of Africa, Asia, Europe and North America at around the same period. The 1500’s, after all, were not just about an Italian Renaissance, there were actually other people living on our planet who also made use of creative expression. And the indigenous Haida Gwaii (1825) of the Pacific Northwest have more in common than one might realize with the Floating World of Edo (1800), Japan as they were both, worlds apart, searching for a national identity.

A map at the start of each section supplies just the right amount of cross reference material yet maintains consistency in spite of explorations and wars over the centuries which caused maps to become outdated as quickly as our modern technologies become obsolete. Consulting the reference maps, the reader will get a good sense of how different civilizations made use of art no matter where in the world they were located.

Using only two simple page spreads for each cultural discussion, Dalzell transforms the paper into almost tangible settings and imbues them with personality, perspective, interpretation, and artistic significance.

The artwork and design of each page is enchanting and inspiring, drawing the eyes and the imagination in close. A mix of hand drawn backdrops, collage cutouts, and taped-up paper scraps filled with tasteful trivia, mingle together to tell the story of one small aspect of a location.

Energy emanates from these illustrations. The temperatures, breezes, noises and scents are all generously absorbed. In some cases, such as Great Zimbabwe 1300, local wildlife—giraffes, lions, elephants—are inserted into the exotic scenes. In others, like Granada 1450, period figures converse, and strolling minstrels play a tune, thus transforming the ancient ruins into a living and breathing destination one could easily imagine visiting with a picnic lunch.

With a sense that these examples are barely even the tip of the iceberg, curious minds enthralled with this book will wish they had a time machine and/or an unlimited travel adventure budget. This type of travel is both an exploration that will last a lifetime as well as an infinitely open invitation to strange ideas and foreign cultures. In other words, it is the very essence of art history that is captured in this book.