A Short Guide to Writing About Art (The Short Guide Series)

ISBN: 0136138551
ISBN 13: 9780136138556
By: Sylvan Barnet

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About this book

'A Short Guide to Writing About Art', seventh edition, equips students to analyze pictures (drawings, paintings, photographs), sculpture, and architecture, and prepares them with the tools they need to present their ideas in effective writing. It addresses matters such as distinguishing between description and analysis, editing and more.

Reader's Thoughts

Kate Green

Although I borrowed this book from the library hoping for help in writing critical about exhibitions and artwork it turned out instead to be an excellent little book on helping to write about art in an educational setting. Barnet reinforces much of what anyone that has been to university should know about writing, but in an engaging and friendly way that meant the reminders were welcomed. Really easy to use, this book will arm you with transferable writing skills for a range of audiences and creative subject matters. I'll be borrowing it again.

Melanie Terry

This is an amazing book and helped me raise my grades in art history papers by full letters! This book was not required, but suggested to me by a teacher, and it should totally be required. This book is so helpful and easy to understand. It includes sections on various different types of writing assignments in regards to art. I highly recommend this book!


Background: I ordered this book a few months ago, when I decided I wanted to focus my studies on the theoretical side of art. In order to start practicing my writing more seriously, and having never had any formal training, I wanted a book that could guide me in the right direction, not too advanced nor too basic, and which could be a good reference in my future academic research. After looking around for a bit, I settled for this one, which appeared to have the most interesting contents and best reviews.Review: Art criticism can be a daunting subject. Many times I've gone to an exhibition or read an art book and felt bewildered by the seeming impenetrability of the language used by the critics and art historians. On the other end of the spectrum, I have come across texts that not only deepened my understanding of the artworks, but also made me appreciate things I would normally never cast a second glance at. Short Guide to Writing About Art, A aims at those who wish to write the latter type of texts.Written in a concise and clear language, this book is clearly aimed at art students, and is great for those, like me, who have some kind of background in art but who are just starting to write. The initial part of the book, which includes sections such as "Why Write about Art?" and "The Relevance of Context: The Effect of the Museum and the Picture Book", focuses on teaching the students to look at art and to organize their thoughts, ideas and opinions, and the best way of expressing them. The author makes a point of explaining that, if your audience doesn't understand (or misunderstands) what you wrote, most likely the problem is in your writing. He goes on to explain all the little things that one rarely thinks about or even notices, but which make all the difference when reading, and end up separating a great writer/critic from a mediocre one.The guidelines presented are adapted to various situations, for example, exhibition catalogs, reviews and essays. The book covers everything from giving your own opinions and having a personal style, to the specifics of looking at the different art mediums. Towards the end, the author focuses more on the technical side of writing, including formats, language and research. It is, in short, a reference book and a how-to book combined into one. The points and guidelines presented can be applied to any kind of writing, not just art criticism. The only complaint I have is that towards the end, the explanations about grammar, form and bibliography explanations got very heavy and the book ends on that note, which is a shame because the rest is so clear and easy to read. Because of the density of information it took me longer than usual to read this book - two months as opposed to, say, a week (granted, those two months included a trip to Paris and another to Cuba, in which I did no reading, but still). Nevertheless, I recommend this to every art student, and to everyone who wants to learn about looking at and writing about art.What's Next: I'm really happy I bought this book. It was exactly what I needed to initiate my path towards being a better writer. I plan on checking out some of the books and resources mentioned throughout this one.

Claudia Deloach

Great answers to many questions on writing.


For reference.


This book was very informative but I would only really recommend it to students of the arts as it primarily pertains to writing RESEARCH PAPERS about art. Large portions of it (I have an older edition) focus solely on research paper layout and technique, which was not particularly useful to me. I learned much more about writing about art from "Madonna of the Future by Arthur Danto (this is a collection of art criticisms)


Short Guide to Writing About Art, A (8th Edition) (Short Guide) by Sylvan Barnet (2004)

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