The Story of Art

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Cover of the first edition, 1950

The Story of Art, by E. H. Gombrich, is a survey of the history of art from ancient times to the modern era.[1]

First published in 1950 by Phaidon, the book is widely regarded both as a seminal work of criticism and as one of the most accessible introductions to the visual arts. It was originally intended for younger readers. Over seven million copies have been sold, making it the best-selling art book of all time.[2] It is currently in its 16th edition and has been translated into approximately 30 languages. It is in Time's list of all-time 100 best nonfiction books.[3]


The book is divided into an introduction, 27 chapters each dealing with a defined time period of art history within one or several cultural/geographic contexts, and a concluding chapter summarizing the latest developments in visual arts. The first chapter starts examining prehistoric art and native cultures. The next four chapters are dedicated to the greater ancient cultures, especially Greece and Rome.

Starting with chapter 8, Gombrich then begins to focus on Central European art, returning to a more global view in chapter 24 that deals with art of the late 18th and early 19th century in England, France and America.

A striking property of The Story of Art is the amount of illustrations it contains, with more than 50% of the book's pages devoted to color photographs of paintings, drawings, architecture and sculptures. In the preface, Gombrich explains that it has been his intention not to mention any work of art that he could not also include as an illustration.

The first two sentences of the book have become famous: ″There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.″[4] Gombrich later elaborated on this statement by saying that he defines "art" based on its Latin root, meaning "skill," and that there is "no disembodied skill."[5]


  1. ^ E. H. Gombrich (2006), The Story of Art, London: Phaidon Press, 978-0-7148-324-70
  2. ^ Picture perfect. William Skidelsky, The Observer, 17 May 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  3. ^ Lacayo, Richard (2011-08-18). "Is The Story of Art one of the All-TIME 100 Best Nonfiction Books? TIME thinks so. Check it out". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  4. ^ Gombrich, E. H. (1984). The Story of Art (14th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. p. 4. ISBN 0-13-850066-5.
  5. ^ Carrier, David (Summer 1996). "Gombrich and Danto on Defining Art". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 54 (3): 279. JSTOR 431629.

External links[edit]

The Story of Art on Internet Archive

Gombrich's interview on The Story of Art