History of Design: Decorative arts and material culture, 1400–2000
Yale University Press, (Footprint) $129 hb, 711 pp
The Bard Graduate Center, long known for its ground-breaking studies in the decorative arts, has taken the ambitious leap of presenting a comprehensive history of decorative arts and design from 1400 to 2000, covering Asia, the Islamic world, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. (Coverage of Australia and Oceania is planned for future editions.) At over 700 pages, this is a most impressive achievement. For once, instead of being relegated to occasional paragraphs in major survey texts of art history, the decorative arts are presented centre stage. I wish it had been around when I was a student. Weber has assembled a team of scholars to cover this vast territory and it is not surprising to read that the book was almost ten years in the making. This volume does for the decorative arts what those standard university textbooks, Gardner’s Art through the Ages and Janson’s History of Art, did for the fine arts.