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

Sara F. Matthews-Grieco and Sabina Brevaglieri, eds.
Florence: Morgana Edizioni, 2001. 286 pp.; 403 b/w ills. Paper $27.50 (8885698751)
In recent years, numerous publications focusing on women in early modern Italy have appeared, and this volume, consisting of six essays by well-known scholars, is a welcome addition to the list. Developed in conjunction with the Progetto Donna of the Council for Public Education in Florence, this work is a fine example of combined public and private interests in gender history based on interdisciplinary studies. The unique value of this well-produced book rests in its collection of an extraordinary 403 illustrations, particularly from prints of the period that offer rare insight into the socially constructed norms for nuns, wives, maidservants… Full Review
November 21, 2001
Mark A. Cheetham
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 232 pp.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $54.95 (0521800188)
Mark Cheetham's book, Kant, Art, and Art History: Moments of Discipline, addresses the problem implied by the critic Thomas McEvilley's quip: "Kant and Greenberg are both things of the past and we should just get over them. Yet somehow, they keep arising from the grave like zombies" ("The Tomb of the Zombie," Art Criticism, 1998). Other critics and historians, such as Paul Crowther, want to excise Immanuel Kant from art history, due to amply documented misreadings of the philosopher's work, but Cheetham seeks rigorously to explore the uses to which Kant has been put--appropriately or not. By so… Full Review
November 21, 2001
Robert Shlaer
Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2000. 176 pp.; 126 color ills.; 33 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0890133409)
Douglas Nickel
New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999. 228 pp.; 20 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0810941023)
Though it seems impossible to imagine today, there was a time, just thirty years ago, when major exhibitions of historical photographs were rare, and their sumptuously reproduced, oversize catalogues even rarer. With the exception of John Szarkowski's small, seminal The Photographer and the American Landscape (1963), nineteenth-century American landscape photography--now a boom business and a gilt-edge genre--had little or no exposure. If you wanted to see the work of Timothy O'Sullivan or William Henry Jackson, you went to the halftone insert pages of history books like William Goetzmann's enormously influential Exploration and Empire, first published in 1966. You couldn't… Full Review
November 19, 2001
John Dillenberger
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 248 pp.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0195121724)
In his preface, the author states that he intends to provide a "comprehensive account" (vii) of the place of images in sixteenth-century religious reformations--a laudable goal, though one that this volume ultimately falls short of delivering. John Dillenberger, a noted scholar of theological history, continues his contributions to the study of Reformation history, while taking a different angle by focusing on the role and perception of images in the sixteenth century. The author's endeavor, particularly in extending his efforts beyond his established area of expertise, is praiseworthy. Unfortunately, this foray into the visual arts frequently reveals the potential dangers that… Full Review
November 7, 2001
Mieke Bal and Norman Bryson
G + B Arts International, 2001. 240 pp.; 26 b/w ills. Paper $24.00 (9057011123)
It is difficult to imagine a more stimulating and challenging meditation on visual theory than the one presented in this book. We are offered an initially unfamiliar vision of Mieke Bal's work: early writing on narrative theory; chapters from Reading Rembrandt: Beyond the Word-Image Opposition (Cambridge University Press, 1991) and Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Prepostrous History (University of Chicago Press, 1999); aspects of her underappreciated but seminal work on museums; and some of Bal's most recent thinking on Marcel Proust and on contemporary art. Bal links these chapters with clarity and honesty, providing something of a narrative of her primary… Full Review
November 6, 2001
Alfreda Murck
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000. 406 pp.; many b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0674002431)
In late eleventh-century China, a group of disaffected government officials, their careers in disarray and their lives sometimes at risk, found ways to express political dissent and personal grievances through the use of literary allusions. Expressing dissatisfaction could be dangerous, so these allusions had to be oblique; a reference to spotted bamboo, for instance, evoked an ancient legend about loyal wives searching in vain for their dead lord. Recognizing such an allusion in a poem or in a painting, and understanding its implications in the contemporary context, required considerable erudition as well as a sympathetic alertness to the author's intentions… Full Review
November 5, 2001
Dominic Marner
Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2000. 112 pp.; 51 color ills.; 13 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0802035183)
Densely illustrated manuscripts of the lives and miracles of the saints constituted a distinct category of artistic production during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Of particular interest for the study of narrative and the relationship between text and image, these works also offer important evidence for scholars of political and religious history. Once deemed less aesthetically significant and intellectually sophisticated than illuminated Bibles and liturgical manuscripts, illustrated vitae have recently been the subject of much thought-provoking work by scholars such as Cynthia Hahn and Barbara Abou-El-Haj. Dominic Marner's book is devoted to one of the latest of these hagiographic cycles… Full Review
November 1, 2001
Kamil Khan Mumtaz
Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1999. 150 pp.; some color ills.; some b/w ills. Cloth $35.00
The title of Kamil Khan Mumtaz's book is in keeping with architectural debates in South Asia, which for almost a century have remained anchored in questions about modernity and tradition. This book is a collection of sixteen short polemical essays by Mumtaz, a well-known Pakistani architect, written between 1967 and 1997. The essays chronicle the gradual shift in his position "from a committed 'modernist' to a believer in the essential value of traditional wisdom." Mumtaz's argument does not adequately problematize issues such as economic and cultural domination, or religious nationalism and secular identity. Instead, he remains satisfied with the limitations… Full Review
October 30, 2001
Kalman P. Bland
Princeton University Press, 2001. 233 pp. Paper $19.95 (069108985x)
See Stephen Fine's review of this book. As its title suggests, Kalman P. Bland's The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual revisits the evidence on Jewish aniconism and uncovers the origins and meanings of this most prevalent of modern myths. The conventional wisdom Bland seeks to overturn is now a profoundly internalized truism formulated during the course of the last 200 years by a broad range of writers, thinkers, artists, and scholars of all stripes (Jew and Gentile alike). The truism holds that Jews are a people without art. Judaism's presumed… Full Review
October 24, 2001
Valerie Shrimplin
Truman State University Press, 2000. 375 pp.; 127 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0943549655)
This book systematically examines the ways in which the sun was understood metaphorically, symbolically, and scientifically in a range of texts and images available to Michelangelo during the period in which he designed and painted the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel (1534-41). Observing that Michelangelo's Last Judgment differs from previous renditions in that it offers a circular composition with figures rising and falling in a clockwise pattern around a figure of Christ before a sun-like mandorla, Valerie Shrimplin hypothesizes that the artist might have had a heliocentric model of the universe in mind. Each of her ten chapters addresses… Full Review
October 19, 2001
Larry Norman, ed.
Exh. cat. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. 128 pp.; 8 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. $22.00 (0935573291)
David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, January 9-April 22, 2001.
In a manner appropriate to its subject, The Theatrical Baroque is slender in size but broad in scope. The catalogue, like the exhibition it accompanied at the University of Chicago's David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, explores a wide range of interactions between the visual and performing arts in Western Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The project's structure also sets forth an ambitious agenda, as it proposes that faculty and students working together across disciplinary boundaries can generate new and meaningful insights into the often neglected collections of a university art museum. An introductory… Full Review
September 20, 2001
Nadine M. Orenstein, ed.
Exh. cat. Yale University Press in association with Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. 336 pp.; 108 color ills.; 166 b/w ills. $60.00 (0300090145)
Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, May 24–August 5, 2001; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 25–December 2, 2001
See also: Hans Mielke, "Pieter Bruegel: Die Zeichnungen":, reviewed by Dorothy Limouze As the European Cultural Capital of the year 2001, Rotterdam had something quite special to offer—a sensational exhibition, the likes of which will scarcely, if ever, occur again. Almost all of the total graphic work of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525–69) was on view this past summer at the Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum in the Netherlands. This splendid show was conceived in close collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it will be shown this fall. … Full Review
September 19, 2001
Jonathan M. Reynolds
Berkeley: University of California Press. 337 pp.; 8 color ills.; 154 b/w ills. Cloth (0520214951)
The present work is a much awaited study of the architect Kunio Maekawa (1905-86), one of the three principal Japanese who worked with Le Corbusier (from April 1928 to April 1930). Maekawa has long been recognized both in Japan and the West as a key figure in the evolution of Japanese modernism. While Maekawa himself published accounts of his work (from the 1930s through the late 1960s), his writings are not numerous if judged by the standard of his peers nor by those of later contemporaries. In 1930 he was the Japanese translator of Le Corbusier's important early text "L'art… Full Review
September 19, 2001
Meyer Schapiro
New York: George Braziller, 1996. 359 pp.; 139 color ills. Cloth $38.00 (9780807614204)
Meyer Schapiro’s contribution to our understanding of Impressionism has had an importance that goes well beyond his actual written contribution to its study. If we exclude his work on Cézanne, that contribution has consisted of scattered passages in articles and published lectures and, more focally, less than a dozen paragraphs written in the 1937 essay "The Nature of Abstract Art" (Marxist Quarterly 1 (1937); reprinted in Schapiro, Modern Art: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Selected Papers [New York: George Braziller, 1978]). These paragraphs—more precisely, two among them—have been stimulating for social historians working in the field: they begin: "Early Impressionism… Full Review
September 15, 2001
Lawrence J. Vale
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. 460 pp. Cloth $45.00 (0674002865)
Those of us who live in Massachusetts are fortunate that Lawrence Vale settled here to apply his considerable intellectual and writing talents to the study of public housing in Boston, rather than, say, in Chicago, San Francisco, or St. Louis. The rest of you, don't despair: From the Puritans to the Projects: Public Housing and Public Neighbors is not just a parochial story about Boston, but an insightful historical analysis of the relationship between the cultural meanings of land and home, attitudes about responsibility for both oneself and others, urban design, and social policy. Vale convincingly argues that one cannot… Full Review
September 14, 2001