BE Fine Arts

Seemanns Sachlexikon Kunst & Architektur [Seemann’s Handbook of Art and Architecture]. Brigitte Riese and Hans-Joachim Kadatz. Leipzig: Seemann, 2008. 464 p. ill. 25 cm. ISBN 978-3-86502-163-2: EUR 35 [08-1/2-211]

Wörterbuch der Kunst [Dictionary of Art]. Founded by Johannes Jahn, continued by Stefanie Lieb. 13th rev. and expanded ed. Stuttgart: Kröner, 2008. x, 917 p. ill. 22 cm. ISBN 978-3-520-16513-8: EUR 31.80 [08-1/2-212]

The year 2008 saw the issuance of two one-volume art handbooks, both re-workings of earlier publications. Seemanns Sachlexikon Kunst & Architektur is based on two previous works, Seemanns kleines Kunstlexikon and Seemanns Lexikon der Architektur, both published in 1994. The current work has taken the majority of its 4,000 articles from these two lexica, primarily from the first, which was recognized by reviewers at the time as better overall than the architecture handbook. As implied by the title, the emphasis here is on terms and concepts, rather than persons. Most articles are brief, providing a definition of each concept or term. There are no bibliographical references. The selection of illustrations in color and black-and-white seems somewhat arbitrary and is of average quality.

The Wörterbuch der Kunst is based on a work started by Johannes Jahn (1892-1976) in 1940, as volume 165 of Kröners Taschenausgabe. The original publication has been reissued in numerous editions, at first overseen by Jahn, then by Wolfgang Haubenreisser (the 9th to the 12th editions—see IFB 95-4-591 for a review of the 12th ed.), and now in its 13th, newly revised and expanded edition, by art historian Stefanie Lieb. The current book has a larger format and a larger font, making the text easier to read. This handbook includes 3,200 articles about both persons and terms. Articles about people focus primarily on artists of the 20th century, including contemporary ones. Some articles have been taken from the older edition unchanged, others have been revised, and a number of new articles have been added. That some articles appear unchanged from previous editions should not be regarded as a criticism, because much of the information is still valid, even after seven decades, particularly for explanations of specialized terms. The bibliographical references, mostly monographs in German, some in English and French, have been updated. As before, the number of illustrations is relatively small.

Comparing the two works, one must conclude that the Wörterbuch der Kunst is superior to the Sachlexikon, because it offers a broader range of topics, discussed in more depth, and updated bibliographical references. It is recommended as a source of information for everyone interested in art and especially for students of art history. The WdK may lack some terms, but these can be found in the SSKA or in more specialized reference works. [sh/akb]

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Last update: April 2011 [LC]
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