Mirror of the World A New History of Art

Julian Bell

“Exuberant, astute, and splendidly illustrated history of world art . . . draws fascinating parallels between artistic developments in Western and non-Western art.”—Publishers Weekly

In this beautifully written story of art, Julian Bell tells a vivid and compelling history of human artistic achievements, from prehistoric stone carvings to the latest video installations. Bell, himself a painter, uses a variety of objects to reveal how art is a product of our shared experience and how, like a mirror, it can reflect the human condition.

With hundreds of illustrations and a uniquely global perspective, Bell juxtaposes examples that challenge and enlighten the reader: dancing bronze figures from southern India, Romanesque sculptures, Baroque ceilings, and jewel-like Persian manuscripts are discussed side by side. With an insider’s knowledge and an unerring touch, Bell weaves these diverse strands into an invaluable introduction to the wider history of world art.


Bell applies his painter's eye and sensibility to unusual juxtapositions of world cultures.

— Minneapolis Star Tribune

A wonderful guide. Bell has a passion for art, a good eye, and a writing style full of grace and energy…A great leap beyond the conventional survey.

— Art & Auction

A valuable and entertaining adventure in art history.

— Bloomsbury Review

An extraordinary book for any reader.

— Choice


Julian Bell


Julian Bell is a writer and artist. He currently teaches at the Royal Drawing School, London, and writes about art for journals, including the Times Literary Supplement and London Review of Books. He is the author of several acclaimed books, including What Is Painting? and Mirror of the World: A New History of Art.