• Malcolm Fernandes


50 Art Ideas You really Need to Know is a compiled selection of fifty of the most common concepts and phases in art history. Written specifically for the layman, and chronologically structured, this book begins by describing key components of Pre-Historic Art, Ancient Egyptian Art, and Greek Art (in separate chapters) and works its way through the various art movements that have shaped our modern day world. Each chapter is structured within a set template containing the following aspects pertaining to the respective art “idea” or art “concept”:

  • A brief paragraph styled introduction

  • Key highlights

  • A timeline that plots year/ year-ranges of major events within the “idea”/”concept”

  • Relevant quotes

  • Paragraph styled breakdowns and descriptions

  • Black and White Image and/or text call outs, with examples

  • A final one-line description that encapsulates the “idea”/”concept” in what is called the condensed idea

There are two key points that drive HOW this book is put together:

  1. This book is part of a series by the publisher called 50 _____ Ideas You Really Need to Know. The series covers various topics like Architecture, Literature, Genetics, Physics etc. While I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, I think it’d be safe to assume that each book in the series is structured in much the same manner as this one, with individual chapters dedicated to each “idea”, and the chapter then further following a set template.

  2. This book, (and again, I’d assume the same is the case with the other books in the series) is aimed at being a quick reference guide and is very specifically targeted at the layman or novice interested to find out more about art.

The above two points provide both unique benefits as well as limitations in the overall effectiveness of this book.


  1. For the interested reader, the books structure makes it super-easy for someone to quickly look-up, reference, and compare key concepts, facts and other information about the respective art “idea”

  2. Its set layout and structure lends itself very well to cover-to-cover casual reading as well as academic “studying”

  3. Completing a chapter means the reader has a general understanding of the topic and will be able to intelligently talk to the respective topic

(Expansion on the topics to cover more about the art “idea”, and a brief quiz/question section at the end would be the only two main sections missing from this book that would make it a comprehensive textbook or training manual of sorts)


  1. The title of the book is 50 ideas---, and by that, there are several art concepts that are left out (practically speaking). These include: a comprehensive listing of the key artists and works of the respective time period, other key movements like Digital Art, Sound Art, Kinetic Art, and various art movements from other regions like Persia, the Indian Subcontinent, Africa, South-East Asia and others.

  2. Printed in black and white: I’m not sure if there is a full color version of this book, but the copy I have is in full black and white. Again, this could be a limitation set on the entire book series itself (or perhaps one of project budget, or copyright), but whatever the case, full color images would have made this book truly top-notch.

  3. More images and examples: This one is another limitation of the books fixed structure. With each chapter set at exactly 4 pages in length, there is no room for additional images and examples or content.

Art, as a concept, (and as a vital part of human development through the history of civilization), and its various phases of development, is just too vast to fit into a book of this format and structure (or any other single book for that matter). To that effect, this book is far from being complete and comprehensive. However, it is not meant to be! (And the title gives that away). Any “numbered list” based book is automatically made for a specific type of reader: one who needs a quick reference guide. And in that respect, this book absolutely meets its desired goal.

The author, Susie Hodge, selects and elucidates specifics about the respective Art “idea” quite well, using: down-to-earth language, clear and concise terminology, avoiding much of the abstract-vague verbiage that plagues much of art-related literature, and keeping all prose focused on the type of reader a book like this is meant for.

Hardcover binding with dust jacket, and quality end-papers give this book a premium feel

The Verdict

I love this book!

50 Art Ideas You Really Need to Know About is a good book for anyone looking to understand art in general. As mentioned before, this book is far from being a comprehensive take on the subject, but it is not meant to be. This book is not for those looking for an all-round, in-depth, and comprehensive understanding that lists every relevant art movement, piece of work or artist from around the globe. On the other hand, it’s concise, yet fairly holistic format, and engaging prose by the author are its key strengths.

The biggest downside to the book is it being in black and white which takes away from the impact it could have had if the images were in color (this as well as adequately balanced image brightness and contrast (this could be a matter of the quality and state of the printing process used, itself)). My intention with getting this book was to specifically brush up on my own knowledge of art, art history, and fill in gaps in my understanding — and this book did that and more (e.g.: it introduced me to a ton of new ideas like: Shin Hanga and the Harlem Renaissance). To supplement my understanding of the various ideas, I found myself going to the internet for image searches (and Wikipedia for more about the various topics) while reading this book. For the size of the book, its price and, and handy format, it absolutely met my needs.

This is a highly recommended book if you’re looking for a concise run-down of art history, or a quick-reference guide on the subject. This books is very nicely put together to meet those needs. Two things that could make this even better: I do wish the prints were in color, and the glossary were more comprehensive. BUT, all in all — 50 Art Ideas You Really Need to Know About is an interesting and engaging read.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Text: Susie Hodge

Series: 50 Ideas You Really Need To Know

Category/Genre: Non-Fiction – Art/Art History

Hardcover Page Count: 201

Publisher: Quercus Publishing plc

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