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The 12-Hour Art Expert: Everything You Need to Know About Art in a Dozen Masterpieces

Interested in art but feel under-informed? Curious but afraid you might not “get” it? Already a fan and wishing to immerse yourself in a fun, engaging, informative and informed read that will refresh and top up your Art History 101 and Introduction to Art courses from college?

The 12-Hour Art Expert: Everything You Need to Know about Art in a Dozen Masterpieces provides all this: a thorough walk-through of art and its history, trade, collection, display, museum culture, value, interpretation and importance. But all this is presented in a down-to-earth, quirky and personal manner, by one of the world’s best-known art historians. The book breaks down barriers of intimidation and pretense that sometimes hold people back from engaging with art. The format is meant to avoid the common approach of throwing hundreds of images at a reader and expecting them to learn from and memorize them all. Instead, the book will guide its readers through a brief series of masterpieces of Western art—from cave paintings to the sharks in formaldehyde.

This book features 12 chapters that teach readers the complete (though abbreviated) story of art, each one focused on one notable masterpiece, with references to others, giving readers a fixed, digestible number of objects that they will get to know in depth, and which they can use as a lens to understand the thousands of other, related objects that they might encounter in the future. In examining these 12 masterpieces, we come to discuss 12 corresponding concepts and themes important to understanding art, both historically and today, illustrating a turning point or exemplary trend in the history through engaging stories, rather than a list of “-isms.”

This book gives its readers the power to decode a world of masterpieces on their own, teaching as it guides and entertains.

“Art historian Noah Charney describes himself as “a proponent of making art feel accessible to anyone who is willing to meet it halfway,” and The 12-Hour Art Expert accomplishes that mission via an anecdotal, conversational approach that explains art history and various artistic movements in an informative, fun manner.”

-Foreword Reviews, July/August issue

“Art History 101 was never like this! Instead of the usual catalog of images and dates to memorize, here is a wide-ranging and entertaining overview of Western art. Charney uses a dozen masterpieces as landmarks for an amazing journey through art history. He is an excellent guide, passionate, knowledgeable, and witty. Chapter titles include “The -isms Cheat Sheet in Thirty Paintings” and “When Bad Things Happen to Good Art: Conservation and Loss.” Woven throughout are explanations of art techniques, movements, and forms as well as engaging discussions of art criticism over time. Sharp color reproductions are provided for the dozen masterpieces, which include Van Eyck’s Adoration of the Magi, Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes, and Duchamp’s Fountain, as well as images of other, related works. Charney achieves his goal “to make art as accessible, understandable, enjoyable, and intriguing as possible for as many people as are willing to be open-minded and consider engaging with it.” Anyone with even the slightest interest in art will be hooked by this fun master class in masterpieces.”

-Booklist, June issue

You can order the book at any of the following sites:


· Barnes and Noble

· Books-A-Million

· Bookshop.org

· Rowman & Littlefield

Praise for THE 12-HOUR ART EXPERT:

This book is -- dare I say it -- a masterpiece. Noah Charney is my favorite guide to the world of fine art. He makes it accessible, fascinating and fun -- and shows us why fine art is still relevant in the age of Tik Tok.

— A.J. Jacobs

Best-selling author of, most recently, Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey

Through 12 chapters, Dr Charney introduces us to the basic terminology, stylistic periods and ways of interpreting fine art from prehistory to the present day. This book introduces readers to the art market, crime, restoration issues, and the myriad errors inevitable in any profession, especially one so subject to interpretation as the study of art.

This “handbook” intended for the lay readers is all that and more—it can be an indispensable vade mecum for professionals and even experienced art historians. The book is a stimulating read and an inspiring contribution to art history mainly because Charney’s view is original, entertaining and brilliantly witty. His knowledge is anchored in a wealth of practical experience, a broad view of the profession and deep reflection. He replays in fascinating ways the various fundamental ideas of art, which he explains in a way easy to follow for today’s reader.

Charney skillfully navigates between standard art and pop culture, offers pictorial comparisons between pagan gods and martial arts, Plato and Sci-Fi movies, artists like Michelangelo and Raphael and today’s top athletes and rock stars, compares self-portraits and selfies… He uses an approachable contemporary vocabulary, talking about influencers and six-packs.

He also makes excellent arguments with his unmistakable pedagogical gift. The book challenges the reader to master the basic skills of viewing and understanding fine arts in the shortest time—just twelve hours—how to look, understand and evaluate. The goal is fully achieved. The fresh language and engaging voice will impress even the most demanding reader.

-Barbara Jaki

Director, National Gallery of Art, Slovenia

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