Concepts of identity are complex and changing, and in this book Katherine Hoffman examines images of individuals and families from ancient Egypt to the present--more than two thirds of the book covers the twentieth century. Through a comprehensive study of paintings, sculpture, photography, film, television, and other media, Hoffman provides eye-opening insights on the identity of family and self through time and explores what these images say about the attitudes and values of a particular culture.Concepts of identity and self as individuals and families are complex and changing, but images from the artist, the photographer, the filmmaker, and TV producer can help us discover where we came from, who we are and why, and where we are in the maze of postmodern life. Katherine Hoffman explores portraits and images from ancient Egypt to the present--more than two-thirds of the book covers the twentieth century, including images from art, photography, film, TV, and other media. The 75 illustrations are integrated with the text.
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(229mm x 152mm x 22mm)
Westview Press Inc
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
This earnest art-history slide lecture offers no compelling thesis to unite the many images of self and family that are examined. Asserting that we look at portraits of others in order to learn about ourselves, Hoffman (Art History/St. Anselm College) declares that the point of this brisk walking tour of images throughout history is to stir the reader to some greater awareness of one's family and one's self. She points out Hellenistic portraiture's emphasis on the soul, the Roman linking of the family to power and the economy, the resurrection of personality (along with perspective) during the Renaissance, when man replaced God as the focus of civilization. During the Enlightenment, she asserts, public life became preeminent and "portraits or scenes of the family served to maintain that connection." She traces the impact of the birth of photography on depictions of family life and the rise of the ubiquitous family photo album. Positive images of the family produced in both Hitler's Germany and in post-WW II America provide the only thread of consistency here, underlining the contradiction inherent in the propagandistic image of the united family and its unvarnished reality: In ancient Rome, for example, there were numerous childless marriages and divorce was prevalent, just as the happy American family of the 1950s concealed unrest and unhappiness. While Hoffman offers careful readings of individual works, setting them within the context of their times, her narrative never seems to draw any overarching revelations from these paintings and photographs: One closes the book having learned little about one's own identity and about where the family may be heading. A soothing read, this book would sound better in a headset at the museum, where we would be able to better view the selected images. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Katherine Hoffman
Katherine Hoffman teaches modern and contemporary art and art history at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, where she is chairperson of the Department of Fine Arts. She is the author of Explorations: The Visual Arts Since 1945,Collage: Critical Views, and An Enduring Spirit: The Art of Georgia O'Keeffe.