Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

There seems to be no end to how-to or lists books on any subject, so it is no wonder that these should invade the visual arts. This book's 83 contributors, described as "Leading International Critics," selected and reviewed its 1,001 paintings under the general editorship of artist Stephen Farthing and preface writer Geoff Dyer. It certainly is an international group, but for all the work that must have gone into its production--each painting has a full-page entry and color reproduction--the overall result is disappointing. Why must one see these? Because the selection is by committee, rather than from one overriding vision, the selections (or omissions) are erratic at best and downright weird at times. The vast majority of the reproductions are small to tiny, giving little indication of why the paintings are distinctive. By arranging the reproductions and entries chronologically and organizing them into centuries, with preface, introduction, title index, glossary, artist index, contributors, photo credits, and acknowledgments, this book attempts to do too much; by overreaching, it falls far short of whatever diffuse goal it might have once had. Its Eurocentrism and hubris of title and stated purpose, with poor to useless reproductions and quirky selections, render this book annoying and nearly worthless. Summing Up: Not recommended. J. Weidman Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art