A fully illustrated, panoramic world history of art from ancient civilisation to the present day, exploring the remarkable endurance of humankind’s creative impulse.

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‘A worthy and richly illustrated successor to Ernst Gombrich’s fabled The Story of Art‘ ― Sunday Times, Best Art Books 2021

‘Stonard traverses the sweep of human history, moving between cultures and hemispheres … His book consists of myriad flashes of brilliance and inventiveness … In sheer scope and ambitionCreation finds a precedent in Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art (1950) … Stonard both emulates and expands upon Gombrich’s masterly and ubiquitous account. But he also offers something distinct, substituting the grand narrative with a pluralistic, incidental and shifting approach. It leads into the near present in the style of a prolonged ellipsis – a promise of “more to come” — James Cahill ― Literary Review

‘If The Story of Art were written today, it would look very much like Creation . This bountifully illustrated book is a history of connections . [Stonard has a] lucid, thoughtful style … He manages to show both how the great names of Western art and their peers elsewhere in the world were driven by the same forces, but above all that making art is “part of what it means to be human” — Michael Prodger ― Country Life


No house embodies the spirit of one dynasty better than Chatsworth. Set in an unspoilt Derbyshire valley, surrounded by wild moorland, and home to the Cavendish family for sixteen generations, this treasure house is filled with works of art and objects – from Nicolas Poussin’s The Arcadian Shepherds and Antonio Canova’s Endymion to great contemporary paintings by Lucian Freud and David Hockney – which have all, in their time, represented the very best of the new.

Following the completion of a decade-long programme of renovations, the exterior of Chatsworth is gleaming, its stone façade newly cleaned and its window frames freshly gilded. Inside, through the inspired juxtaposition of old and modern, its rooms fizz with creative energy. Chatsworth, Arcadia, Now tells the story of this extraordinary place through seven scenes from its life, alongside a stunning photographic portrait of the house and its collections, captured at a moment of high optimism in its long history.

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Just about the most mouthwatering book produced this century… Gardens, landscapes, libraries, wild flower meadows, works of art, architecture… Bliss! — Alan Titchmarsh MBE

This glamorous, artistic book is a fitting tribute to a decade of renovation… One could say that the book is a collection piece in its own right… Breathtaking still-life studies underline the connections and contrasts between old and new… The sense of a great house with a vibrant past, present and a future is palpable — Jeremy Musson ― Country Life

Anyone who cannot visit in person can now luxuriate in this astonishing book, with its brilliant photographs fabulously staged and daringly laid out… as glorious as the house itself — Clive Aslet ― House & Garden

Chatsworth, Arcadia, Now is about the most sumptuous book I’ve seen in a third of a century of book reviewing. It charts the story of sixteen generations of Cavendishes’ involvement with one of the two or three grandest and most beautiful houses in Britain — Andrew Roberts, author of GEORGE III



Accompanying an exhibition at the White Cube Gallery Bermondsey

Purchase at the White Cube Shop

23rd November to 12th February.


‘Dies alles — hab’ich nun geträumt?’

— Parsifal, Parsifal, Act II.

‘Descriptions of Valhalla, the hall of fallen warriors of Norse mythology, were first recorded in the Poetic Edda, or Codex Regius, a book of Old Norse poems compiled in the thirteenth century. They describe a golden-bright hall, emblazoned with spear-shafts and shields, where fallen warriors from throughout time are gathered, lustily feasting on boar’s meat and drinking mead from the udder of a goat. They are tended and served by the Valkyries, the flying handmaidens of Odin, chief god of Valhalla. The warriors are preparing to take place in the final battle, signalling the end of the world, known as Ragnarök.

            Beds ranged along the long corridor of Anselm Kiefer’s Walhalla carry the names of Valkyries: Hildr, Skögull, Brünhilde, Waltraude and Grungerde are here, alongside others. Instead of glittering radiance, however, there is sepulchral gloom. Heavy lead blankets and pillows dress rusting iron beds. Dimly lit by dangling bulbs, the walls are lined with large sheets of dully reflective lead. It might well be an improvised field hospital in a war zone, or a dark shelter housing unlucky survivors of a nuclear blast. Rusty machine guns poke from the blankets, hinting at last ditch resistance. An image at the end of the long corridor shows a figure walking away up a muddy path: the same photograph appears in an earlier version of the work, Die Frauen der Revolution — ‘Women of the Revolution’. Are the bed-ridden Valkyries victims of some revolt, or staging some siege of Valhalla? The real casualties and heroes of history are always women, this Valhalla seems to say. 

            The Valkyries sweep through Kiefer’s Valhalla in the wake of Brünhilde, their cheerleader. With Die Walküren (2016), their rigid gypsum bodies are ranged on a heavy iron arm, suspended over baked earth, as if pret-a-porter handmaidens. In another version, Sursum Corda, they swirl around a spiral staircase, the great ash tree Yggdrasil perhaps, leaving some of their vestments hanging on the stairs alongside festoons of photographs, showing concrete towers under construction: guides, perhaps, for the giants who built Valhalla above. The Valkyries are spectres of violence and fear, but also in this work, supplicants in the Christian Mass, implored by the priest to ‘lift up your hearts’ — ‘sursum corda’ — the title of Kiefer’s staircase. We lift them to Odin, the Valkyries might reply. Staircases are always symbols, spatial metaphors, representing ‘growth, the upward and downward motion of nature’, as Aby Warburg once wrote, ‘just as the circle, the coiled serpent, is the symbol of the rhythm of time’.’[1]

[1] Aby Warburg, ‘A Lecture on Serpent Ritual’, Journal of the Warburg Institute, vol.2, no.4 (April 1939), pp. 277-292. 




Accompanying an exhibition at the British Museum, 6th February – 31st August 2014.


‘… a valuable insight into the work of six of Germany’s key artistic figures in the 60s and 70s, exploring their East German wartime roots and grappling with their identities as they crossed the border – willingly or otherwise – to begin a new life in the West’. — Studio International

See also the three poems commissioned in response to the exhibition, by Sam Riviere, Kathryn Maris, and Michael Hoffmann, published in The Poetry Review 104.2:



The Books That Shaped Art History reassesses the impact of some of the most important texts of art history published during the twentieth century. Each of the sixteen incisive chapters focuses on a single title and is written by a leading art historian, curator or one of the promising scholars of today’s generation. In bringing these cross-generational contributions together, this book provides a varied and invaluable overview of the history of art, told through its seminal texts. The sixteen books include Nikolaus Pevsner’s gospel of Modernism, Pioneers of the Modern Movement, Alfred Barr’s now legendary monograph on Matisse, E.H. Gombrich’s Art and Illusion, Clement Greenberg’s Art and Culture, which had a seismic impact when it was published in 1961 and Rosalind Krauss’s The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, which introduced structuralist and post-structuralist philosophy into art historical study. Initiated by and and prepared under the auspices of The Burlington Magazine, each chapter – with writers including John Elderfield, Richard Verdi and Susie Nash – analyses a single major book, mapping the intellectual development of its author, setting out the premises and argument of the book, discussing its position within the field of art history, and looking at its significance in the context both of its initial reception and its legacy. An introduction by John-Paul Stonard explores how art history has been forged by these outstanding contributions to scholarship, as well as by the dialogues and ruptures between them. The book is supplemented by contextual essays summarising the achievements of each art historian and offering a detailed publication history of their texts, with suggestions for further reading. Enlivening debates and questioning the very status of art history itself, The Books That Shaped Art History is a concise and brilliant overview of the discipline and an invaluable resource for students, teachers, bibliophiles and all those interested in visual culture and its histories.


‘ [a] thrilling account of the history of 20th-century art’ – The Guardian

‘The Books That Shaped Art History, with highly original and at times provocative essays, and its multiple plots and subplots, is a very valuable, stimulating, and also an eminently teachable anthology’. — College Art Association Reviews



Fault Lines. Art in Germany 1945-55 offers an important and insightful account of art and artists in Germany in the wake of the Second World War, and of the reconstruction of German artistic culture in the early stages of the Cold War. Drawing on a broad range of archival and visual sources, “Fault Lines” examines the circumstances of destruction, defeat and division in the postwar decade, and the role played by artists during the first moments of reconstruction and occupation. How did artists respond to the destruction of Germany by Allied bombardment? What was the impact of Russian, American, French and British cultural policies during the military occupation? What were the driving forces behind British cultural policy? In the face of political division, how did artists react to German cultural traditions, symbols of a lost whole? What were the connections between East and West?”


‘… this well-researched and lucidly written book, which transcends its apparently rather narrow subject to become a fascinating piece of modern European history’. — Times Literary Supplement