Author: Isabelle Glorieux-Desouche
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
ISBN: 978-0-7112-3091-0

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 World art is a politically correct euphemism for primitive, tribal, or aboriginal art, from those parts of the world where indigenous populations were discovered as far back as the 15th century. Tribal art originated in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and all of the Americas. A popular subject among painters and sculptors for most of the 20th century, it makes fascinating museum exhibitions. Yet, for many of us, it is an opaque subject: Without background knowledge, it is a field difficult to explain because the civilizations that these works represent are so alien to our own.

The author was inspired to write this book by her experiences guiding children through museums and listening to their questions and comments. Based in that interaction, she has compiled a manual to teach adults what they need to know about world art in order to satisfy the curiosity of children and respond to their comments.

Isabelle Glorieux-Desouche studied History of Art at the Sorbonne, with a focus on ethnology, followed by two years living in Guinea. She has worked as a museum guide specializing in world art for more than 15 years, first at the Louvre, then at Musee Dapper and now at Musee quai Branly. The author has compiled photographs of 30 pieces of primitive art that are representative of what a museum visitor might encounter. Accompanying each work of art is generous, background information that makes each piece come alive. The author cloaks that knowledge in answers to inquiries and comments that children might generate when seeing aboriginal art for the first time.

It is fascinating to learn that all tribal art was purposeful.  Tribal objects have many uses that include religious and life cycle rituals, battle, body decoration and everyday functionality. Some pieces contain details referencing the status of the owners who wore or used them. Whenever the human form is rendered, it is never representational. The artists, who created objects depicting the human body, captured only the essence of their subject by focusing on facial and corporal expressions. That economy of detail is what made primitive art so attractive to western artists, living on the cusp of abstract art, at the beginning of the 20th century.

Ms Gloriex-Desouche begins her work with an overview of the relationship between the western world and the lesser developed tribes, a relationship that began when Europeans began their journeys of discovery. Most of the artifacts collected from the first voyages up until the middle of the 19th century were no more than curiosities to be collected. It was not until the end of the 19th century that scholars from the world of art, history, and anthropology began to realize that primitive art indeed demonstrated true artistic expression. Today, such works are on display in museums around the world and  many pieces have been returned to their country of origin, to be enshrined.

The photographs in this publication, mostly culled from museum collections, are superb visual renderings of the artwork they represent. It is hard to imagine that any visitor could get any closer to see them better. The author’s discussion of each piece is all encompassing, scholarly, and easy to understand. That is quite an accomplishment for a subject that, on first glance, appears so strange. Readers will find it enjoyable sharing this knowledge of world art with children of any age.

 Click Here To Purchase How to Talk to Children About World Art