Mary Beard, Civilisations : How Do We Look / Eye of Faith
RRP £15 (published 1st March)
In Civilisations Mary Beard investigates two aspects of what it means to be human. In Part I, How Do We Look, she focuses on some of the earliest human figures in art – from the Olmec heads of pre-historic Mexico to the first nudes of the ancient Greek world, asking what were these images for, how they were understood by people in the past and why were they sometimes so dangerous and unsettling. Why have cultures all over the world invested so heavily in images of the body?
In Part II, The Eye of Faith, Beard shows how for millennia art has inspired religion as much as religion has inspired art. Together, across different cultures, they have given us some of the most famous and breath-taking images ever made. Yet there are fundamental problems, which all religions share, in making God visible in the human world. Ranging from Angkor Wat to Ravenna, from idolatry to iconoclasm, Mary Beard explores the often problematic interface between art and religion.
David Olusoga, Civilisations: First Contact / The Cult of Progress
RRP £15 (published 5th April)
In First Contact, Olugosa investigates what happened to art in the great Age of Discovery when civilisations came face-to-face with each other for the first time? Although the period was unquestionably one of conquest and destruction, it was also an age of mutual curiosity, global trade and the exchange of ideas. Hidden within the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, eighteenth century Japanese prints and the art of late Mughal Indians are strands of artistic and cultural DNA drawn from other cultures during this first age of globalisation.
Part II, The Cult of Progress, examines the explosion of change caused by the Industrial Revolution, which many viewed as the unstoppable spread of progress. Artists too struggled to depict the changing world and the fate of peoples and cultures that were radically altered. Some, including the Impressionists, worked to understand and paint what they saw, while others, such as Gauguin, fled to utopias he thought would be untouched by progress.