Why do we reach for the red rose on Valentine's Day? Where did the owl get its reputation for wisdom? Why should you never trust a fox? In this visual tour through the history of art, the English art historian, educator and author, Matthew Wilson, assembles a global visual language rooted in art: the language of symbols.
Symbols exert a powerful hold on the image-saturated 21st century, and have done so for thousands of years. From national emblems to company logos and emojis: our daily lives are teeming with icons rooted in the distant past.
Matthew Wilson shows the often surprising paths that symbols have taken throughout history. From their original purpose to their modern meanings. Wilson identifies the common themes and ideas that connect seemingly disparate cultures.
Thus we meet the falcon as a symbol of authority from the ancient Egyptian pharaohs to the aristocracy of the Middle Ages: the dog as a faithful companion from the classical era to the Renaissance; and the mythical phoenix as a symbol of female power, connecting a queen in England with a goddess in China. We also see moments of radical reinterpretation and change: the transformation of the swastika from an auspicious symbol of hope to one of hatred.
From prehistoric cave paintings to contemporary installations, Wilson guides us through this world of symbols, showing its enduring capacity to express power, hope, fear and faith, and to create and communicate identities, uniting – or dividing – the people who created them.
Matthew Wilson is an art historian, educator and author. He has written for numerous publications and media on art and culture and is a graduate specialist in art history.
Dimensions: H: 24.6 x W: 18.6 cm
Author: Matthew Wilson