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

Lawrence Nees, ed.
Cambridge, Mass.: Medieval Academy of America, 1998. 257 pp.; 156 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (0915651092)
This volume gives an interesting sample, though not a survey, of current scholarship on the art of early medieval Europe. Its editor, Lawrence Nees, has given it shape and balance that clearly reflect his own approach to the material. Nees has long been constructing bridges over the divide between Western "medieval" and "Byzantine" art, an enterprise indebted to the example of Ernst Kitzinger, to whom this book is dedicated. Geographical boundaries are facts of American academic life, both in the courses we teach and in the conferences we attend (usually either the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo or… Full Review
January 28, 1999
Judith Barter
Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 320 pp.; 100 color ills.; 200 b/w ills. $65.00 (0810940892)
Art Institute of Chicago, October 10, 1998–January 10, 1999; Museum of Fine Art, Boston, February 14–May 9, 1999; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., June 6–September 6, 1999
Not surprisingly, the public flocked to see the well-conceived Mary Cassatt exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, standing in line to buy calendars, posters, refrigerator magnets, and coffee cups adorned with her beloved images. Yet the exhibition curator, Judith Barter, intentionally downplayed the sentimental side of Cassatt, opting instead to show her evolution as a "modern" artist. Ninety key works, including paintings, pastels, drawings, and prints, highlighted Cassatt's progress from a young artist studying in Europe to her acceptance as a member of the Parisian avant-garde. Loosely following this basic chronology, each of the seven galleries was organized around… Full Review
January 28, 1999
Bodo Brinkmann
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 1997. 441 pp.; 63 color ills.; 367 b/w ills. Cloth €85.00 (2503505651)
The subject of this monograph is the Netherlandish book illuminator whom Friedrich Winkler named the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook in 1914 after a Book of Hours—not a Prayerbook—in the State Library of Saxony (ms. A.311). Although some thirty ascriptions to the artist have been made in the eighty years since Winkler's pioneering essay, Brinkmann is the first scholar carefully and systematically to examine the painter's entire output. Brinkmann has enlarged that output to fifty-two manuscripts, four groups of cuttings, and two incunabula. All of the works are individually examined, the majority in chronological order; most of the… Full Review
December 8, 1998
Lynn F. Jacobs
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 352 pp.; 91 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521474833)
If quizzed to name two sculptors of early Netherlandish wooden altarpieces, many of my colleagues and I would not pass or would do so only with considerable searching the depths of our memories. Even if we relaxed the rules and permitted the use of the standard introductions to Netherlandish art by Charles Cuttler (1968), James Snyder (1985), or Craig Harbison (1995), these yield just four examples, two of which are given as by anonymous artists. Jacques de Baerze is known primarily because at a slightly later date Melchior Broederlam, one of the "pathfinders" of early Netherlandish art, painted exterior wings… Full Review
December 6, 1998
Penny Howell Jolly
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. 155 pp.; 12 color ills.; 34 b/w ills. £45.00 (0520205376)
For decades the rich, dense heritage of medieval and Renaissance Venice has offered historians, art historians, and social scientists an array of subjects and an evolving methodological arsenal for their analysis. Building on the work of previous generations, recent scholars have expanded our understanding of the manner in which a society can use its visual culture to construct a variety of identities: civic, religious, class, familial, and even individual, conveying messages that were normative as well as informational. Yet despite intense activity, monuments such as the thirteenth-century mosaics of San Marco have awaited the application of approaches that reach beyond… Full Review
December 1, 1998
Beth Archer Brombert
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 506 pp.; 68 b/w ills. Paper $19.95 (0226075443)
It was Édouard Manet's notoriety that caught the attention of the young writer Émile Zola in 1866 and galvanized him to write the first sustained polemic about his work. A fascination with the controversies surrounding the reception of Manet's paintings has inspired an entire strain of writing on the artist ever since. Although some of that journalistic skirmishing animates Beth Brombert's biography, this new account of his life does not dwell on Manet's public persona. Objecting to the "depersonalized" Manet that has emerged in recent scholarship, Brombert argues that many of the enigmatic aspects of his art can be explained… Full Review
November 20, 1998
Karl Galinsky
Princeton University Press, 1998. 474 pp.; 11 color ills.; 164 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (0691058903)
One can only admire Karl Galinsky's courage and self-confidence in attempting a one-volume synoptic study of what is perhaps the single subject that has exerted most dominance within Roman studies for over a century (and particularly in recent years). In the 1990s, in the relatively narrow field of Augustan art alone (narrow by the very broad standards of Augustan Culture, where "art and architecture" receive one chapter out of eight), in the English language alone, we have seen at least four monographs devoted exclusively to the arts under Augustus—not to speak of innumerable articles (among which the present reviewer is… Full Review
October 26, 1998
Joaneath Spicer, ed.
New Haven: Yale University Press in association with The Walters Art Museum and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1997. 480 pp.; 90 color ills.; 206 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0884010937)
The study of Dutch art presents a particular challenge: How best to organize the material? The extraordinary rate of pictorial production, at a high level of craft, in the northern Netherlands in the seventeenth century, the profusion of first- and second-rank masters, the expansion of the genres, and the existence of specialized local markets conspire to make the task of encompassing discussion difficult. This is true enough for a survey book, but takes on even greater importance in the world of museum exhibitions. In the last three decades, the response has been to examine Dutch art thematically, or by individual… Full Review
October 26, 1998
Ernst van de Wetering
Exh. cat. Amsterdam University Press, 1997. 340 pp.; 201 color ills.; 134 b/w ills. Cloth €72.50 (0520226682)
Albert Blankert, ed.
Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1997. 462 pp. Cloth $59.00 (9040099812)
For a snapshot of the dominant directions of current Rembrandt research, particularly under the leadership of senior Dutch scholars, two recent publications provide a sensitive vision. Their very titles signal the degree of adulation accorded to the painter Rembrandt, a solitary "genius," whose wide-ranging influence, or "impact" diffused outward to a circle of talented but lesser painters who followed in his wake. Emphasis is on distinctive, individual artistic production in both books, though van de Wetering makes claims to "demythologizing" the artist's techniques, because of the scientific investigation of works themselves. The exhibition catalogue from Australia essentially reprises the outlook… Full Review
October 1, 1998
Anne van Buren, James Marrow, and Silvana Pettenati
Lucerne: Commentary Lucerne, 1996. 703 pp.; 8 color ills.; 163 b/w ills.
The appearance of a facsimile volume (costing around six thousand dollars) of the celebrated, partially destroyed "Turin-Milan Hours" (Turin, Museo Civico d'Arte Antico, inv. no. 47) is reason enough to rejoice for scholars, who would otherwise probably never have close contact with these celebrated miniatures, some of which (controversially) have been attributed to Jan van Eyck. Now there is still more reason for celebration: the accompanying commentary volume has appeared in three languages (nothing like having a Swiss publisher!). In addition to providing basic, small illustrations of all the images in the original manuscript (including the Paris folios of what… Full Review
October 1, 1998
Sylvain Laveissière
New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 344 pp.; 148 color ills.; 255 b/w ills. (0810965208)
Exhibition schedule: Grand Palais, Paris, September 26, 1997–January 12, 1998; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 10–June 7, 1998
This retrospective devoted to Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (1758–1823) begins with his Sign of the Hatmaker Charton (1774), a naive artifact painted before the artist left Cluny in 1774 for Dijon to study. Who knowing just this homely object could have imagined that its creator would do some of the lushest nudes of both sexes made by any artist? After then going on to Paris, Prud'hon in the 1780s spent three years, three months in Rome. Returning to Paris in 1788, after failing to compete with David and David's follower, Anne-Louis Girodet, he did a few works associated with the Revolution, but… Full Review
October 1, 1998
Carolyn L. Connor
Princeton University Press, 1998. 16 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $79.50 (0691048185)
Online readers, and especially those not involved in the "Ivory Wars" clearly set out in the endnotes of The Color of Ivory, should be aware of at least two things before embarking on this review. First, that seven years ago Carolyn Connor wrote an article on traces of color on the Joshua plaques in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,[1] interesting because it enlarged greatly on Kurt Weitzmann's observation in 1930 that their "rosette bands show traces of red and blue color of later date but which surely are [to be considered] modern only with difficulty."[2] Second, that I have already… Full Review
October 1, 1998
David Bordwell
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997. 322 pp. Paper $60.00 (0674634292)
A person can learn quite a bit by watching neighbors working on a similar task, and David Bordwell's new book on the status of visual style in film history raises anew the issue for art historians, who supposedly invented the concept. Bordwell is a distinguished historian of film at the University of Wisconsin, who has authored and co-authored (usually with Kristin Thompson) monographs (The Cinema of Eisenstein), period histories (The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960), general histories (Film History: An Introduction), and critical appraisals of theory and method in his own discipline (Post-Theory: Reconstructing… Full Review
October 1, 1998
Thomas E. A. Dale
Princeton University Press, 1997. 282 pp.; 8 color ills.; 160 b/w ills. Cloth $140.00 (0691011753)
With remarkable visual clarity, the apse mosaics of the church of San Marco in Venice proclaim the issues involved in the monograph of Thomas Dale. As Otto Demus discusses and illustrates in his magisterial volumes, four saints stand there beneath an enthroned Christ. Peter and Mark share the central axis. Peter hands Mark his Gospel; Mark acknowledges the gift by his extended right hand and displays it in his left hand. On the right side of the apse, St. Hermagoras turns toward Mark and his Gospel. In the corresponding position at the left stands St. Nicholas, the patron of sailors… Full Review
October 1, 1998
Elizabeth Cropper and Charles Dempsey
Princeton University Press, 1996. 374 pp.; 12 color ills.; 165 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0691050678)
As the authors point out in their preface (and this is a book in which preface and introduction deserve the same reader's attention as its insightful text): "This book has had a long gestation . . . developing over continuous years of thinking, teaching, and writing about Poussin in particular and the art of the seventeenth century in general" (xvii). This is both an honest proposal and a fair warning; the book in hand is nearly as much about important general artistic developments and aesthetic attitudes in seicento Rome as it is about Poussin. The date of the… Full Review
September 1, 1998