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Introduction to Art: Design, Context, and Meaning

(58 reviews)

Pamela Sachant, University of North Georgia

Peggy Blood, Savannah State University

Jeffery A LeMieux, Brunswick, GA

Copyright Year: 2016

Publisher: University of North Georgia Press

Language: English

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Reviewed by Eddy Mora, Faculty, Johnson County Community College on 5/8/22

Very comprehensive touching on subjects required not only to understand art but design as well. Topics were related to visual communication, visual literacy, and meaning. I love that the author does not stop at aesthetics but follows with cultural... read more

Reviewed by Monika Meler, Assistant Professor of Art and Foundations Coordinator, University of Saint Francis on 12/30/21

This book is a good and comprehensive text outlining themes and ideas. I see the audience for this text being complete beginners. It focuses less on formal principles and elements and tackles larger, more comprehensive themes like defining art,... read more

Reviewed by Christine Shearer, Adjunct Professor, Cleveland State University on 7/11/21

The book is a good resource for a basic art appreciation course that plans to focus more on topics and themes and less on formal qualities. Most of the examples are of a Western focus and provide a very Eurocentric viewpoint. There is a lack of... read more

Reviewed by David Chatfield, Adjunct Instructor, Community College of Aurora on 5/24/21

This text is not especially comprehensive. The first, and the most egregious example is the lack of historical and cultural contexts, normally found in the form of sections on art history. The authors attempt to embed art history into... read more

Reviewed by Ines Corujo-Martin, Adjunct Assistant Professor, New York City College of Technology on 5/4/21

This textbook seeks to offer a deep and comprehensive insight into the world of art, including a broad variety of perspectives, such as art and meaning; art and power; art and ethics, among many other subjects. It contains over 400 high-quality... read more

Reviewed by Meidor Hu, Professor, Hawaii Community College on 4/23/21

This text is a comprehensive survey of ideas and subjects— theoretically and historically, similar to other text for an introduction to visual arts course. A wide variety of artistic media styles, time periods, and regions are covered, mostly with... read more

Reviewed by Daniel Vedamuthu, Instructor of Art and Design, Rochester Community & Technical College on 4/1/21, updated 6/1/21

Books for Introduction to Art / Art Appreciation courses usually cover some standard topics: the definition of art, materials used to make, the elements of art and the principles of design, reasons for creating art, and methods of formal analysis... read more

Reviewed by Andrea Lepage, Professor of Art History, Washington & Lee University on 12/13/20

The text integrates all of the key areas traditionally covered in an art appreciation course with an emphasis on cultivating an art specific vocabulary and understanding the materials of art. The authors incorporate a wide variety of artistic... read more

Reviewed by Julia May, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia on 11/30/20

I would use this text in my art appreciation/visual culture course. I very much appreciate the arrangement of the book, the first section dedicated to the fundamentals of art and the second, to central themes. These aspects provide a solid... read more

Reviewed by Danielle Bell, Adjunct Professor of Art and Art History, Community College of Aurora on 8/14/20

In reviewing this text, there were many things that I had issues with: 1. The text condenses the discussion on artistic mediums to half a chapter. This does not give students enough time to fully engage with the mediums since there is no context... read more

Reviewed by Don Oberheu, Lecturer, Leeward Community College on 7/14/20

The text does an excellent job of covering the areas and ideas that one expects from an introduction to art textbook. The table of contents is clear and provides easy navigation within the text. While there is no glossary at the end of the text,... read more

Reviewed by Sandra Clyne, Adjunct Instructor, Bunker Hill Community College on 6/30/20

Although the text provides a detailed analysis of ancient, traditional, and modern visual art, it is notably deficient in its treatment of contemporary (post 1960s) art. This omission would lessen the appeal to college students of this otherwise... read more

Reviewed by Meridyth Espindola, Adjunct Professor, Bunker Hill Community College on 6/26/20

This book does a great job covering a broad spectrum of the context and meaning of art and design, and consistently provides visual examples. read more

Reviewed by Talicia Honkola, Art Instructor, Mesabi Range College on 6/25/20

The textbook is comprehensive, offering topics on elements and principles covered in my course. In my opinion the first half would work better to introduce students to visual art. The book is arranged well and is easy to comprehend. read more

Reviewed by Marla Sweeney, Adjunct Instrcutor, Middlesex Community College on 6/17/20

The text is a good introduction to art and art history . It is not a chronological art history text but covers several periods, art forms and ideas related to understanding art. read more

Reviewed by Julia May, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia on 5/7/20

I would use this text in my art appreciation/visual culture course. I very much appreciate the arrangement of the book, the first section dedicated to the fundamentals of art and the second, to central themes. These aspects provide a solid... read more

Reviewed by WangLing Chou, Associate Professor of Art, Louisiana College on 4/30/20

The text is comprehensive, offering a wide range of material on the subject. Several of the chapters--mostly the latter ones--are more conceptual and/or philosophical and while they would be excellent for Art majors or upper level students, they... read more

Reviewed by Alexis Rusch, Adjunct Instructor, Oakland City University on 3/30/20

This book is easy to comprehend. I do think the first half is better than the second. There is no index which I do find useful. In the area of visual elements and principles of design, I do wish they went more into depth. read more

Reviewed by Kimberly Jones, Associate Professor, Sweet Briar College on 1/29/20

While the text is relatively comprehensive, I wish that it would have cast the net wider in terms of art forms to include a more extensive coverage of film, video games, textiles, typography, etc. Nonwestern art is included, but I would have like... read more

Reviewed by Mary Shira, Instructor, James Madison University on 1/8/20

This is not a book I feel I could adapt in its present form in my course, Art in the General Culture, a general education course designed to introduce students with little or no background in art. While it contains a wealth of information that I... read more

Reviewed by Billi London-Gray, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington on 12/30/19

The text is comprehensive, providing an introduction to design concepts and terminology as well as an historical survey of (mostly Western-centric) ideas around the production and interpretation of art. Topics like ethical considerations in art,... read more

Reviewed by Rick Lostutter, Associate Professor of Art and Design, Hanover College on 12/20/19

This textbook is a fairly comprehensive primer on art from the approach of purpose, materials, structure and meaning. It provides readers with the foundational tools of understanding how to more formally assess art and the creation of many... read more

Reviewed by Mike Morelli, Director Entertainment Management, University of Montana - Missoula on 12/19/19

This book provides a nice broad survey of styles, periods, artists' and types of art. read more

Reviewed by David Riep, Associate Professor, Colorado State University on 12/10/19

I found this textbook to be very comprehensive. As one can quickly grasp from the table of contents, this book covers all of the major introductory topics for approaching and discussing art and visual culture (as well as some focused topics that... read more

Reviewed by Elizabeth Morton, Associate Professor, Wabash College on 11/6/19

This text covers almost all of the bases one would expect for an introductory class. Its biggest problem is the lack of inclusion of non-western examples in its presentation. The European art tradition dominates the discussion, with some... read more

Reviewed by Jade Hoyer, Assistant Professor of Art, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 10/25/19

As other reviewers have noted, the text covers elements of design, rationale, context, and impact for and of making art. It’s a lot for a work to cover, and is generally successful, if sweeping, in doing this. I didn't note an index. The... read more

Reviewed by Maria Guzman, Instructor - Art & Art History , Peralta Community College District on 9/26/19

I found this book to be a good "skeleton" text for a variety of courses. I liked that it had chapters dedicated to both formal analysis (Chapters Two, Four, and Five) but also managed to include global perspectives (Chapter Eleven: Art and Ethics... read more

Reviewed by Mara Pierce, Assistant Professor of Art Education, TRAILS on 9/16/19

This text covers several, if not all, the bases needed to fully appreciate art making processes, historical perspectives, variations, time periods, methods, criticism, purposes, associations, and artists. Each chapter opens with objectives and... read more

Reviewed by Stephanie Newton, Professor, Aims Community College on 7/26/19

The book could spend more time with processes of creating--the different types of paint, printmaking, etc. It seems to be very brief in introducing the elements and principles of art as well. Although each chapter has a glossary, it does not have... read more

Reviewed by Michael Takemoto, Associate Professor, University of Hawaii Maui College on 5/24/19

This is a review of the hard copy, purchased from Amazon. Overall, for an art appreciation / introduction to visual art text, it is fairly comprehensive. However, compared to other books of a similar nature, it lacks in some aspects: it doesn’t... read more

Reviewed by Leila Armstrong, Visiting Faculty, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 5/9/19

The text covers a broad array of art movements both geographically, and temporally, though I think the non-Western selections are a bit slim. There are a number of mentions of modern/contemporary art, but the authors often provide links to images... read more

Reviewed by Anthony Marchetti, Full-Time Faculty, Minnesota State on 5/4/19

This textbook is an impressive guide to the introduction of art and visual literacy. It is not an art history textbook. There is room for further examples of artwork or at least links to more visual resources. Also, more contemporary image... read more

Reviewed by Jeff Brown, Associate Professor of Art, Nicholls State University on 4/29/19

In its 11 chapters, the book covers the essentials for the overall subject. I appreciate how it is divided up, especially in the beginning where it starts with basic ideas and concepts of what is art. It can seem elementary to discuss this, but... read more

Reviewed by Michelle Dean, Assistant Professor, Thomas Nelson Community College on 3/27/19

Introduction to Art: Design, Context and Meaning is an appropriate title for this text. The 11 chapters explore structure, materials, meaning and context of artistic production in a somewhat comprehensive manner. It certainly provides a solid... read more

Reviewed by Mandy Keathley, part time professor, Linn-Benton Community College on 1/28/19

Considering how entry level and accessible the text is, it is also fairly comprehensive. I wish there were more contemporary art examples, but I was able to fill in as needed. I found it sufficient as an outline, and did a lot to fill in the gaps. read more

Reviewed by Bob Casper, Adjunct Faculty, Boise State University on 1/9/19

I used it a supplement for a Webdesign course, reinforcing artistic concepts, and it was well received by the students. read more

Reviewed by Lori Parks, Visiting Assistant Professor, Art History, Miami University on 8/2/18

The focus and organization of this text is similar to a number of other Art Appreciation textbooks currently available. For example, there are a number of texts that present Art Appreciation through a thematic structure. The material is... read more

Reviewed by Peter Spooner, Instructor, Lake Superior College on 5/21/18

With eleven chapters in just under 300 pages, the text provides a comprehensive framework with which to explore the topic of art appreciation. It does not (nor does it claim to) offer a complete art historical survey, but rather uses examples of... read more

Reviewed by Arianne Fernandez, Full - Time Lecturer, LaGuardia Community College on 5/21/18

The range of topics this book covers provides a great resource for teaching students the basics of visual art and introducing them to various media and techniques as well as the process of art making, from multiple. Since the text covers a wide... read more

Reviewed by Jonathan Johnson, Associate Professor, Otterbein University on 5/21/18

This textbook is ambitious and covers a lot of ground—both theoretically and historically. The thematic (as opposed to purely chronological or geographical) approach and interface allows the soaring comprehensiveness of this text to take a... read more

Reviewed by Dina Pizzarello, Adjunct Assistant Professor, LaGuardia Community College on 5/21/18

This textbook would be a wonderful source for any beginner art or art appreciation class. It does not delve too deeply, but that is a plus for the beginner and/or typical non-artist using this resource. An index and glossary would be great... read more

Reviewed by Eleanor Johnston, Academic Skills Librarian, Staffordshire University on 2/1/18

This texts provides a comprehensive introduction to the world of Art and contains 11 chapters, thematically arranged, to give an overview for beginners to the subject. The text contains enough content and examples to ensure that there in... read more

Reviewed by Victoria Hutson, Art Faculty, Lake Superior College on 2/1/18

This book covers a broad range of areas that are typically included in a college level art appreciation book. Because it covers so many different areas—it doesn’t go into a lot of depth in any one area. However, an instructor could easily provide... read more

Reviewed by Elizabeth Maynard, Adjunct Professor, Rhode Island College on 2/1/18

This books is not an historical survey, but it offers a wide range of artworks from throughout history and the world to elucidate major themes and concepts. Even while it is non-linear or chronological, the text nonetheless covers terms and ideas... read more

Reviewed by Renee Couture, Assistant Professor of Art, Umpqua Community College on 2/1/18

This book covers just about everything needed for teaching students the basics of visual literacy and introducing them to art. This text has a range of images and includes various time periods, styles, and works from Western and non-Western... read more

Reviewed by Nancy Pettigrew, Associate Instructor, Tidewater Community College on 8/15/17

For an art appreciation textbook, there is no set of required information that must be included and, therefore, a textbook's comprehensiveness is somewhat subjective. This textbook does cover some core areas for this discipline: the definition of... read more

Reviewed by Samantha Moore, Adjunct Instructor, Art History, Northern Virginia Community College on 6/20/17

The text covers information listed in the table of contents adequately. Content is arranged thematically as is common in art appreciation courses. Each chapter includes a glossary of terms covered at the end of the chapter. It does not include an... read more

Reviewed by Isabelle Havet, Faculty, Linn-Benton Community College on 6/20/17

The textbook thoroughly covers the topics of each chapter, and each chapter has enough range that it could easily be supplemented and ideas expanded upon. The "Key Concepts" and "Key Terms" sections after each chapter are very useful and would... read more

Reviewed by Hilary Galián, Instructor, Portland Community College on 6/20/17

The text covers a broad survey of art including many art forms. Photography, digital media and relational aesthetics examples are lacking throughout the text. Chapters include examples of Western and non-Western art and architecture. More context... read more

Reviewed by Sasa Miljevich, Adjunct Instructor (Fine Art), Portland Community College on 6/20/17

The text is organized thematically and covers some of the areas of Art. Some of the content is overly simplified , and some important artistic movements are omitted. There is no index, which make it difficult for students to comprehend some key... read more

Reviewed by James Jewitt, Manager and Instructor, Arts Minor, Virginia Tech on 6/20/17

This text successfully manages the difficult task of synthesizing a plethora of approaches when studying art and its history. It considers numerous ethical, philosophical, and thematic issues typically left out of traditional survey books. While... read more

Reviewed by Joe Macca, Adjunct Faculty, Portland Community College on 6/20/17

While the text covers such a vast amount of visual art history, genres, meaning, symbolism, materials, etc., because it's so much, it can only very briefly mention these topics. That said, the glossary of terms is thorough and appropriate. The... read more

Reviewed by A.D. Rocha, Fine Arts Advisor and Instructor, Washington State University on 6/20/17

The text presents its themes in an order that is easy to follow. The examples provided are relevant and serve well to illustrate the concept. The prompts at the end of each chapter also present good starting points for class discussion. read more

Reviewed by Aderonke Adesanya, Associate Professor, James Madison University on 6/20/17

The text is a bold work in terms of content coverage. It focuses on the nuts and bolts of learning about and discussing art and its context, and combines these with some considerable information on art history, It therefore aptly fits the needs of... read more

Reviewed by Stephanie Wirt, ACA Art History Adjunct Professor, Reynolds Community College on 2/8/17

This text does cover the material its title implies at an introductory level. More depth could be used in some areas. In the chapter on describing art some major stylistic movements were omitted. The approach to describing art changes relevant to... read more


Content adequately covers the subjects it purports to include. However, there is no comprehensive index. A brief list of Key Terms is included within each chapter. These lists are barely adequate and probably confusing to neophyte students with no... read more

Reviewed by Renee Garris, Adjunct Professor, J Sargent Reynolds Community College on 2/8/17

The text covers Art in a thematic approach. It explains concepts in an easy to understand manner. read more

Reviewed by Deborah Cibelli, Professor , Nicholls State University on 12/5/16

The text is organized thematically and does not offer a chronological survey of the history of art. Chapters discuss forms and materials, the processes of describing and interpreting art, aesthetics, architectural form, art and identity, art and... read more

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One: What is Art?
  • Chapter Two: The Structure of Art
  • Chapter Three: Significance of Materials Used in Art
  • Chapter Four: Describing Art
  • Chapter Five: Meaning in Art
  • Chapter Six: Connecting Art to Our Lives
  • Chapter Seven: Form in Architecture
  • Chapter Eight: Art and Identity
  • Chapter Nine: Art and Power
  • Chapter Ten: Art and Ritual Life
  • Chapter Eleven: Art and Ethics

Ancillary Material

  • Ancillary materials are available by contacting the author or publisher.
  • About the Book

    Introduction to Art: Design, Context, and Meaning offers a comprehensive introduction to the world of Art. Authored by four USG faculty members with advance degrees in the arts, this textbooks offers up-to-date original scholarship. It includes over 400 high-quality images illustrating the history of art, its technical applications, and its many uses.
    Combining the best elements of both a traditional textbook and a reader, it introduces such issues in art as its meaning and purpose; its meaning and purpose; its structure, material, and form; and its diverse effects on our lives. Its digital nature allows students to follow links to applicable sources and videos, expanding the students' educational experiences beyond the textbook. Introduction to Art: Design, Context, and Meaning provides a new and free alternative to traditional textbooks, making it an invaluable resource in our modern age of technology and advancement.

    About the Contributors


    Pamela Sachant is an art history professor at North Georgia College & State University located in Dahlonega, Georgia.

    Peggy Blood is Director of Confucius Institute and Full Professor in the Department of Fine Arts Humanities & Wellness. Prior to SSU she Directed satellite campuses (Fairfield &Travis AFD) for Chapman Universities in California. Her area of specialization is Fine Arts, Higher Education & Administration. She is a Fulbright Specialist & Fulbright Specialist Program Peer Reviewer, and reviewer for other academic fellowships and scholarships. Blood is a visiting scholar at Jiujiang University in Jiujiang, China. 

    Jeffery A. LeMieux is Professor Emeritus of Art at the College of Coastal Georgia. He is a practicing artist with works in private and public collections including the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and the College of Coastal Georgia. He holds an M.F.A in 2D Studio Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a B.S. in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. His area of specialization is college level art foundations and art appreciation which he has been teaching for over 20 years.

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