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Making a Mark by Marjorie Ann Watts

Book cover

Making a Mark

Making a Mark is a book about Western art history, from cave paintings to the present day. The introduction describes how the author wrote it in response to her grandson’s curiosity about movements cubism and impressionism. Laudable and an excellent idea for a book but, reading it with the thought that it might fill some gaps in my knowledge, it fell short.

The most significant failing is that it doesn’t contain any pictures. The publisher provides an explanatory note that this was original intended but then, realising devices like Kindles operate without colour, they decided it was better to leave the art itself out entirely. I wonder if they considered Marshall McLuhan’s dictum that “the medium is the message”? I think it is possible to create books that contribute to art history without including illustrations but it is a hard sell when the work is meant to provide a broad brush overview. Each chapter ends with some suggested works to look at but there should at least have been a website collecting them together in once place. If the reader is going to learn by hunting them down, the reader might as well start elsewhere.

My other objection was that the writing itself seemed to fall between stools. The grandson must be a precocious and determined character to wade through a relatively long text, especially one that sometimes takes an unexpected jump. Did we need to take a break in the Middle Ages to learn about paints and pigments – a fascinating topic but a detour? Why were particular artists selected and others excluded? Hidden principles or mere whim?

I think the result is a book that isn’t among the best guides you could find to the subject and nor does it live up to the promise of personal interest, revealing history through a developing relationship between grandchild and grandparent.

 

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