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Synopsis

The urge to create pictures of our world has been with us ever since early man daubed a fingerful of pigment on a rock, or used primitive colours to create exquisite images of the beasts he hunted - images so breathtakingly powerful they have never been surpassed, however sophisticated we have become. This book tells the story of what painting has meant to us, and how its role has changed over the centuries. In the crisp, unstuffy commentary on each of 150 landmark works, Christie's art expert Roy Bolton leads us through the development of painting until our own age, where painting as a painterly craft has been overtaken by a proliferation of new forms introduced by contemporary art.

To the question, 'Is the death of painting upon us?' the introductory chapter by Matthew Collings, the multi-award-winning TV art presenter, art historian and cultural critic, gives an inspiring answer: 'Painting justifies itself. Rather than pathetically struggling to keep up with the new freak-show culture of videos and installations, painting will only be worth having if it reconnects with its own inner life, where the old and the new are the same.'

Roy Bolton's selection takes us from the Ancient World, via the Italian Renaissance, Rococo and Classicism to Impressionism, Modernism and the Contemporary World. Each painting, with its context and artist, is explained in terms designed to encourage us to judge art for ourselves. Written with authority and full of original and helpful insights, this is a history of art for our times.

'While I find it interesting to think about all sorts of art, I prefer painting to any of it. Painting is soulful, important, serious and humane.' Matthew Collings

'We need to de-mystify art by stripping it down to its bare essentials, then rebuilding it ourselves, using our own minds and eyes, without all the pompous clutter.' Roy Bolton

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