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

Evan M. Maurer and Niangi Batulukisi
Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Art in association with University of Minnesota Press, 1998. 154 pp.; 76 color ills.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $34.95 (0816636559)
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN, October 1, 1999-July 2, 2000.
Spirits Embodied: Art of the Congo; Selections from the Helmut F. Stern Collection was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title held in 1999 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. All the works came from the Congo. Helmut Stern purchased most of them from Marc Léo Félix, the Belgian connoisseur and African art dealer. The core of the collection, twenty-two out of seventy-one pieces, formerly belonged to the late Belgian artist Joseph Henrion; the rest came from French, Belgian, and Portuguese collectors. The quality of the works varies considerably: some are quite remarkable for their forms and… Full Review
May 20, 2001
John Williams, ed.
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. 228 pp. Cloth $75.00 (0271017686)
For much of the twentieth century, the study of medieval Bible illustration was focused on the problem of origins. In the most systematic theory of the genre, Kurt Weitzmann argued in Roll and Codex (Princeton, 1947) that the earliest biblical manuscripts followed the conventions of ancient papyrus rolls in which narrative images were embedded within narrow columns of text, providing a dense sequence of pictorial equivalents to the principal episodes of the text. Establishing a rigorous method of "picture criticism," Weitzmann argued that one could detect in later cycles the different phases of adjustment that resulted from the gradual emancipation… Full Review
May 18, 2001
Mary Bergstein
Princeton University Press, 2000. 230 pp.; 164 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0691009821)
Mary Bergstein's The Sculpture of Nanni di Banco follows in the tradition of the great monographs like Sculpture of Donatello by H.W. Janson and Lorenzo Ghiberti by Richard Krautheimer, but on a more modest scale. Although Nanni di Banco (ca. 1374-1421) accomplished only six major works in his career, he, with Brunelleschi, Ghiberti and Donatello, "self-consciously and deliberately set into motion the issues that would occupy painters, sculptors, and architects through out the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Italy" (3). This book finally revives Nanni from scholarly neglect, though Brunetti, Lanyi, Vaccarino, Janson, Wundram, and Bellosi previously had made attempts… Full Review
May 15, 2001
Lucy Freeman Sandler
Harvey Miller Publishers, 1999. 120 pp.; 25 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (187250132X)
The Psalter of Robert de Lisle (London, British Library Arundel MS 83 II) has been mentioned in every major publication on the masterpieces of English manuscript illumination. Lucy Freeman Sandler's The Psalter of Robert de Lisle in the British Library, first published in 1983, is the first focused study of the Psalter, and condenses material from her 1964 doctoral dissertation. Scholarly reviews in the mid-1980s, such as those by Walter Cahn in the Art Bulletin (September 1987, 472-473) and Adelaide Bennett in Speculum (October 1987, 985-989), were positive and acted as venues for yet more useful material about the… Full Review
May 11, 2001
Susan Weber Soros
Exh. cat. Yale University Press, 1999. 430 pp. (0300080093)
Susan Weber Soros
Yale University Press, 2000. 300 pp.; 240 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0300081596)
E. W. Godwin (1833-86) was a Victorian architect-designer who balanced historical precedent with innovation, "high" with "low" art, and exotic with vernacular to become the master of "judicious eclecticism." Two recent books on his practice, E. W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer and The Secular Furniture of E. W. Godwin, should be read as a pair. Undoubtedly, Susan Soros—editor of the first and author of the second—agrees, as she often refers the reader of one to the other. The former was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title held at the Bard Graduate Center for… Full Review
May 7, 2001
John W. O’Malley
Harvard University Press, 2000. 230 pp. Cloth (0674000870)
In this fascinating book, John W. O'Malley, the eminent church historian, analyzes scholarship on Roman Catholicism from about 1517 until the French Revolution in order to problematize the "names," or terms, we use for religious developments of that time. As he notes, although the term "Reformation" is generally accepted for Protestantism of the era, consensus is lacking on what to term coeval Catholicism (1). O'Malley examines the biases revealed by the competing names for Catholicism—such as "Counter-Reformation," "Catholic Reformation," and "Catholic Restoration"—and suggests that we use a new term instead: "early modern Catholicism." In making this suggestion, O'Malley aims to… Full Review
May 4, 2001
Mildred Budny
Medieval Institute Publications in association with Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, the Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, 1998. 868 pp.; 747 color ills.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth $300.00 (1879288877)
Art history is a revelatory discipline. Seeking to recover meaning from the past, we uncover pictures only to cover them once again with a veil of our own words. This instinct of turning pictures into puzzles, James Elkins argues, has led to an explosion, since at least the late-nineteenth century, in essays and articles about images (Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles? On the Modern Origins of Pictorial Complexity, London and New York: Routledge, 1999). Whereas ancient or even early modern authors were satisfied with a brief sentence, stretched occasionally into a long paragraph—and very rarely into a few… Full Review
May 2, 2001
Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 2000. 176 pp.; some color ills.; some b/w ills. Cloth $72.00 (2711841529)
Musée Goupil, Bordeaux, France, October 12, 2001-January 14, 2001; Dahesh Museum of Art, New York, February 6-May 5, 2001; Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, June 7-August 12, 2001.
For most of the twentieth century, prints—especially reproductive prints—have been relegated to secondary status in the art world, if they have been mentioned at all. Painting and sculpture received the most attention; prints definitely were the "Other" and beyond the pale of the discourse. In the nineteenth century, however, prints carried more weight. Their role in disseminating art and culture was recognized and valued; a good print was considered worthier than a bad painting. Moreover, artists often earned more money from the sale of a copyright than for a single canvas, and they achieved greater critical and popular notice from… Full Review
May 1, 2001
David Batchelor
Reaktion Books, 2000. 192 pp.; 6 color ills. Paper $19.95
David Batchelor's Chromophobia is a concise book on a large topic: the problem of color in the Western cultural imaginary of the last two centuries. The argument is anchored by, though not limited to, a consideration of color in the discourse of aesthetics and art history. Batchelor also considers literature, Hollywood cinema, television advertising, and architecture in order to bring color's extremely paradoxical and checkered history to light. Generations of cultural producers, art theorists, and philosophers, claims Batchelor, have treated color as an object of fear and loathing, as an alien invader within the cultural organism. Chromophobia's extremely eye-catching… Full Review
May 1, 2001
Eric Jan Sluijter
Waanders, 2000. 368 pp.; 245 b/w ills. Cloth (9040094438)
The explosion of visual images in seventeenth-century Holland was accompanied by an equally rich outpouring of critical dialogue on their benefits and dangers. Lifelike portraits could be praised in ekphrastic poems or disparaged in moralizing pamphlets for their capacity to fill the heart with "love's poison." Pictorial artifice could be both extolled for the pleasure it served upon the beholder and condemned as a "food of evil lust." As the poet Jacob Cats would succinctly state, "the higher the painter flies . . . the deeper he can wound," adding that "the best of minds . . . cause the… Full Review
Jackie Weisz
Washington D.C.: American Association of Museums, 2000. 297 pp. Paper $33.50 (0931201691)
This publication, which is part of the American Association of Museum's (AAM) Technical Information Service Series, compiles the codes of ethics written and employed by sixty-one museums, cultural institutions, and professional organizations. A spiral bound 8 1/2 by 11 inch compendium, Codes of Ethics and Practice of Interest to Museums reproduces the actual codes used by all of the AAM Standing Professional Committees, such as the Curators Committee, the Registrars Committee, and the Public Relations and Marketing Committee, as well as many AAM members, such as the Association of Youth Museums. It also contains a host of guidelines and codes… Full Review
April 26, 2001
Bernard Smith
Yale University Press, 1998. 384 pp. Cloth $40.00 (0300073925)
The dust jacket of Bernard Smith's Modernism's History: A Study in Twentieth-Century Art and Ideas features a figural sculpture by Henry Moore entitled King and Queen (1952-53). Though one could imagine that Moore's couple looks into the future, the gaze betokened by the two figures is more likely retrospective, just as the artist's was in the 1950s and as Smith's study is at the end of the twentieth century. In his book, Smith looks back in order to survey and understand the accomplishments of Modernism in a new way. The book is unabashedly synthetic; it builds on the labors of… Full Review
April 26, 2001
Elise Tipton and John Clark, eds.
Philadelphia: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999. 224 pp.; Many b/w ills. Paper $24.00 (0824823605)
The historical identity of modernism is one marked by global outlooks, humanism in the arts, technological invention, rational economics, and democratic principles. This identity is also frequently depicted as a paradigm of thought minted in the West and exported around the world through the veins of communication, commerce, and colonialism. Being Modern in Japan: Culture and Society from the 1910s to the 1930s exposes how the concepts embodied in Western modernism were negotiated in Japan. In doing so, editors Elise K. Tipton and John Clark reorient modernism, unpacking its totality and displaying the way a society may interpret and weigh… Full Review
April 26, 2001
Mariët Westermann
Phaidon, 1999. 351 pp. Paper $22.95 (0714838578)
The last book of wide reputation written on Rembrandt in English and intended for a general audience was Christopher White's Rembrandt in 1984. Given the rate of change in the world of scholarship, the sixteen years that separate White's and Mariët Westermann's books counts as a generation. Thus, Westermann's book has been widely anticipated as a text that could fulfill many roles—an assigned textbook for students in art history courses, an accessible introduction to the artist for laypeople, and a quick refresher for art historians. The book does not disappoint any expectations, for it satisfies all of… Full Review
April 26, 2001
John J. Ciofalo
Cambridge University Press, 2001. 240 pp.; 8 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth (0521771366)
Historically, self-portraiture has been a problematic genre for many artists because of the necessity both to reveal and to conceal. For this reason, it can tell us things about artists that we otherwise would not know. The genre also provides scholars with a broader context for speculation about artists' personal lives, their creative motivations, professional ambitions, and psychological fears. John J. Ciofalo's book on Goya's self-portraits gives admirable scope for scholarly speculation from a highly informed perspective. The book is admirably researched, exceptionally well written, and profoundly provocative. Indeed, many of the author's readings of Goya's eternally fascinating paintings will… Full Review
April 17, 2001