Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies

Reviews in are published continuously by CAA and Taylor & Francis, with the most recently published reviews listed below. Browse reviews based on geographic region, period or cultural sphere, or specialty (from 1998 to the present) using Review Categories in the sidebar or by entering terms in the search bar above.

Recently Published Reviews

Mirka Benes and Dianne Harris, eds.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 448 pp.; 167 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0521782252)
Following a symposium held at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC, in 1995 that honored Elisabeth Blair MacDougall, director of landscape studies from 1972 to 1988, Mirka Benes and Dianne Harris commissioned an anthology of articles that present diverse methodological approaches to the history of the villa and the garden in France and Italy from ca. 1550 to 1800. Each of the eleven articles in Villas and Gardens in Early Modern Italy and France offers a stimulating analysis of specific sites, and the editors provide provocative introductions to important issues in the field. Benes clearly states in her introductory essay, "Italian… Full Review
August 14, 2002
Timon Screech
London: Reaktion Books, 1999. 311 pp.; 20 color ills.; 91 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (1861890448)
The Shogun's Painted Culture: Fear and Creativity in the Japanese States 1760–1829 is the third monograph published by Timon Screech since 1996 and completes his panorama of late nineteenth-century Japanese culture. Though the title features both Japan's military ruler and period painting, the primary topics of the book are actually Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758–1829, chief shogunal councillor 1787–92, shogunal regent 1789–92) and the cultural history of his times. Screech covers this ground with great clarity, analyzing a diversity of aspects of Japanese culture from the bicameral nature of Japanese rule to the vagaries of shogunal kite-flying to the destruction of two… Full Review
August 8, 2002
Françoise Choay
Trans Lauren M O’Connell Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 255 pp.; 21 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0521454743)
The value of conserving vestiges of the past for future generations has become naturalized in our evaluation of urban change. Preservation of historic built environments is deemed a good thing, and those who stand in its way are considered mercenary, trading cultural value for short-term monetary return. Or so the argument goes. However, the line between old and new is increasingly hard to draw, as is the definition of cultural value. American historic preservation laws only apply to buildings and sites that are more than fifty years old: The 1950s have now reached "monumental" age, and attempts to preserve utilitarian… Full Review
August 8, 2002
Yuri Piatnitsky, Oriana Baddeley, and Earleen Brunner, eds.
Seattle: University of Washington Press in association with Saint Catherine Foundation, London, 2000. 456 pp.; 550 color ills. Cloth $100.00 (0295980273)
Exhibition Schedule: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 19-September 18, 2000
Brilliant and hermetic, Byzantine art exhibitions have glittered across the millennial decade (1993–2004), leaving us to ponder what they have altered or reclaimed. The groundbreaking exhibition held in Athens in 1964 claimed in its title, Byzantine Art, an European Art. "Why?" rejoined Greek critic Iannes Tsarouches. "Why not call Byzantine art an American art? This isn't paradoxical: from a certain point of view Byzantium has much more in common with America than Europe" ("Parataires Skepseis Enos Episkepte tes Ektheseos vyzantines Technes," E Epitheorese Technes 113 (1964): 388). But in the United States, Byzantine studies seem to Robert Ousterhout "semi-marginalized,"… Full Review
August 1, 2002
Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada
Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999. 284 pp.; many color ills.; some b/w ills. Cloth (0824820738)
In this monograph, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada examine kuchi-e, or woodblock print frontispieces, that decorated Japanese magazines between 1890 and 1912. In seven chapters they assess kuchi-e from various perspectives relating to historical novels, Meiji literature, and traditional folklore and customs, as well as social changes, including women's issues. They also explore shifts in pictorial styles to provide a rich synthesis of image and literature. Merritt and Yamada assert that kuchi-e had an independent artistic value that is different from illustrations, and throughout the book they propose that, despite their seemingly minor position in the world of art… Full Review
July 31, 2002
Ginger Cheng-Chi Hsü
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000. 330 pp.; 1 color ills.; 45 b/w ills. Cloth $49.50 (0804732523)
Among the questions that have piqued the interest of Chinese art historians most in recent years is how painters were paid. Negotiations with patrons and clients were almost never a matter of record; indeed, fiscal transactions were rarely discussed, even by the parties involved, but rather conducted on the basis of mutually understood codes of value, taste, and reciprocity. Compensation might well come in the form of gifts and favors rather than money, further obscuring the outlines of the transaction. Ginger Hsü's A Bushel of Pearls: Painting for Sale in Eighteenth-Century Yangchow joins a number of recent studies that illuminate… Full Review
July 29, 2002
Karen Wilkin and Bruce Guenther
Princeton University Press, 2000. 180 pp.; 220 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0691090491)
Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, July 14–September 16, 2001; Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, January 26–February 23, 2003; Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC, March 15–June 17, 2003
Time always takes revenge on a critic. Any writer with an acute sense of the contemporary in art is bound to appear dated eventually, so the recent exhibition and catalogue of Clement Greenberg's private collection at the Portland Art Museum necessarily raises the question of taste: Here it is the critic who is up for judgment. It is easy to notice the fallibility of Greenberg's choices, and in a way too obvious. Would Charles Baudelaire or Denis Diderot come off any better if we saw a show of their favorite pictures? Probably not. Would their best judgments seem suspect? The… Full Review
July 23, 2002
Jennifer Mundy, ed.
Exh. cat. Princeton University Press in association with Tate Publishing, 2001. 352 pp.; 300 color ills. $65.00 (0691090645)
Tate Modern, London, September 20, 2001-January 1, 2002; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February 6-May 12, 2002
Surrealism: Desire Unbound is an anthology of scholarly essays published to accompany a new travelling exhibition on Surrealism. This large-scale, well-illustrated de facto catalogue features twelve essays by a diversity of scholars, including museum curators, academic art historians, and literary critics. The volume succeeds as a considerable contribution to the ample body of literature dedicated to the movement. As the title suggests, the central theme of the anthology is a reevaluation of the role of desire and eroticism in Surrealist literature, visual art, and political philosophy. Yet, the key terms such as "desire," "erotic," "pornography," and "sexuality"… Full Review
July 23, 2002
Caroline Arscott and Katie Scott, eds.
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001. 233 pp.; 74 b/w ills. Cloth $74.95 (0719055210)
This anthology was put together by the editors under the auspices of a group of women teachers at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Caroline Arscott, senior lecturer in nineteenth-century British art, and Katie Scott, lecturer in early modern French art and architecture, formulated and nurtured their project in discussions with their colleagues, several of whom ultimately contributed essays to the finished book. The anthology consists of eight essays (one by each of the editors is included) and centers on depictions and the significance of the figure of Venus in the history of art. I like very much the… Full Review
July 19, 2002
Jan Stuart and Evelyn S. Rawski
Palo Alto, Calif.: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in association with Stanford University Press, 2001. 216 pp.; many color ills.; few b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (0804742634)
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC, June 17–September 9, 2001
This detailed, beautifully printed volume, while aimed at the needs of an extensive exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC, acquires the permanence of carefully researched scholarship about a hitherto neglected aspect of China's rich embrace of the visual arts. Initial gratitude must go to the principal collector and donor, the late Richard G. Pritzlaff, who in the distant spaces of his New Mexico ranch was initially overlooked by intellectuals he delightfully branded as a "superficial and disappointing lot" (20). Redemption at least partially follows, however, in this work of two scholars from that maligned assembly, authors… Full Review
July 18, 2002
Rob van Gerwen, ed.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 285 pp. Cloth $55.00 (0521801745)
Art historians familiar with Richard Wollheim's early writing on art will recall his "Minimal Art" essay, first published in the January 1965 issue of Arts Magazine. Historians of 1960s art have attributed Wollheim with having coined the term "minimal," now widely used to identify a nonunified field of 1960s art making: minimalism, minimalist, literalist, or specific object. The fact that Wollheim's essay addressed none of the artworks or artists that have since become identified with minimalism (etcetera) is an acknowledged peculiarity. What has gone virtually unnoticed in the literature on 1960s art, however, is that minimal art for Wollheim… Full Review
July 17, 2002
Stephen Little
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 352 pp.; 190 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (0520227859)
Art Institute of Chicago, November 4, 2000-January 7, 2001; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, February 21-May 13, 2001.
Taoism and the Arts of China is a welcome scholarly endeavor. The exhibition and catalogue were organized by Stephen Little, Pritzker Curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, with assistance from Shawn Eichman, exhibition coordinator for the show. Both were well suited to the task, having addressed the topic in previous scholarship. The catalogue, like the exhibition, contains a diverse range of media to delight the eye, stimulate the intellect, and indicate the social and cultural depth of this belief system. A list of no fewer than 151 objects from fifty-eight private and public collections and ten countries worldwide underscores… Full Review
July 9, 2002
Anita Fiderer Moskowitz
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 401 pp.; 395 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0521444837)
Anita Moskowitz has devoted her distinguished career to two distinct albeit related subjects: the study of Italian sculpture of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the definition of the Italian variant of "Gothic" style. The period broadly defined by the chronological limits of this book is habitually called Gothic, yet pinning down precisely what is meant by this term in Italy is not an easy task. Moskowitz succeeds in defining and explaining Italian Gothic as it was expressed in sculptural form. As Moskowitz notes in her Conclusion, Italian Gothic sculpture was forged of a "complex dialectic produced by the absorption… Full Review
July 9, 2002
Angela Falco Howard
New York: Weatherhill, 2000. 220 pp.; 181 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (0834804271)
A growing body of publications has finally dispelled the myth that the Song dynasty (960–1279) marked the beginning of a long and inexorable decline of Buddhism throughout the imperial era in China.[1] Summit of Treasures: Buddhist Cave Art of Dazu, China by Angela Howard is an eloquent addition to this new scholarship. The subject of inquiry is the Baodingshan complex in Dazu County, Sichuan province, the only known Buddhist site in China exclusively constructed during the Song dynasty and devoted to religious development at the time. As the first major scholarly investigation of an artistic monument that functioned primarily outside… Full Review
July 3, 2002
Edgar Peters Bowron
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000. 304 pp.; 140 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0300091818)
Museo Correr, Venice, Italy, February 10–June 27, 2001; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, July 29–October 21, 2001.
The townscapes of Bernardo Bellotto (1722–80) have always delighted those in the know. Although never as prominent as his famous uncle, Antonio Canaletto, Bellotto has remained familiar to scholars through the regular appearance of his paintings in exhibitions and occasional reproduction in books. Yet he lingers on the margins of English-language scholarship, perhaps because he spent most of his career in the relatively unfamiliar terrain of Central Europe. Confusion about Bellotto's relation to Canaletto has also hurt his critical fortune, since some assume that the younger artist simply transferred his uncle's visual language to a different context. It hasn't helped… Full Review
July 3, 2002