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Browse Recent Book Reviews

John Ott
The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700–1950. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 330 pp.; 4 color ills.; 73 b/w ills. Cloth $119.95 (9781409463344)
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October 8, 2014

The title of John Ott’s book, Manufacturing the Modern Patron in Victorian California: Cultural Philanthropy, Industrial Capital, and Social Authority, is a riff on Sarah Burns’s important Inventing the Modern Artist: Art and Culture in Gilded Age America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). Ott covers much the same ground chronologically as Burns and with the same high ambitions. But while Burns’s focus is a traditional one on the artist as the maker of meaning,...

Eve Meltzer
University of Chicago Press, 2013. 256 pp.; 36 color ills.; 62 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226007885)
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October 8, 2014

Eve Meltzer’s Systems We Have Loved: Conceptual Art, Affect, and the Antihumanist Turn returns readers to the structuralist adventure in art history. To recall something of the stakes and texture of that adventure, consider the following exchange in 1976 between Robert Morris, an artist, and A. A., a blind woman hired to assist him with a series of drawings entitled Blind Time II. [R. M.:] “Letting the page stand as a ground for yourself, an...

Tanya J. Tiffany
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2012. 256 pp.; 20 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $79.95 (9780271053790)
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October 3, 2014

How did Diego Velázquez’s formative period in Seville inform his later artistic accomplishments at the Spanish court? What was the role of Francisco Pacheco’s teachings and of his intellectual circle in the artist’s training? And how did Velázquez’s early works engage with Sevillian audiences and the concerns of their local culture? These questions are not new ones to students and historians of Spanish baroque painting. In Diego Velázquez’s Early Paintings and the Culture of Seventeenth-Century...

Mirjam Brusius, Katrina Dean, and Chitra Ramalingam, eds.
Studies in British Art, 23. New Haven and London: Yale Center for British Art and Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2013. 320 pp.; 109 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300179347)
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September 19, 2014

William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography attempts to resituate the early history of photography and one of its most important innovators, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877), in the context of mid-Victorian science. Developed from a conference held in June 2010 at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge, this collection of essays, as described in the introduction, examines the relationship of the discovery of photography to the “new...

Minna Törmä
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013. 244 pp.; 28 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9789888139842)
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September 19, 2014

The recent passing of several major figures, including Michael Sullivan (1916–2013) and James Cahill (1926–2014), reminds us of the importance of individuals in advancing the field of Chinese art. As one of the pioneers of Chinese art studies in Europe and North America during the first half of the twentieth century, Finnish-Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén’s (1879–1966) numerous publications helped to propel the field at the time. In Enchanted by Lohans: Osvald Sirén’s Journey into...

Lara Jaishree Netting
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013. 304 pp.; 42 color ills.; 78 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9789888139187)
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September 19, 2014

Two benchmark publications from the 1990s—Thomas Lawton’s A Time of Transition: Two Collectors of Chinese Art (Lawrence: University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art, 1991) and Warren I. Cohen’s East Asian Art and American Culture: A Study in International Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992)—are important precursors in considering Lara Jaishree Netting’s A Perpetual Fire: John C. Ferguson and His Quest for Chinese Art and Culture. These volumes provided some of the starting points...

Andrew R. Casper
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2014. 236 pp.; 34 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. $79.95 (9780271060545)
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September 10, 2014

El Greco’s Italian years, on which Andrew W. Casper’s Art and the Religious Image in El Greco’s Italy centers, present scholars with a challenge. Next to no documentation survives for the ten years he spent there. He seems to have received no major commission, the number of works is small, and none are securely dated. Most of El Greco’s Italian paintings have religious subjects, and Casper utilizes this fact to bring order to the material....

Hans Belting
Trans. Thomas Dunlap. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011. 216 pp.; 61 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780691160962)
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September 10, 2014

Reading An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body by Hans Belting has been remarkably similar to my experiences recording a performance as an art event in western Africa. The handsome book itself, like the African festival, is relatively short. Yet both the book and the ceremony are packed with layers of complex discourse, and become meaningful only when examined within the context of a particular intellectual tradition. Both require interpreters and the occasional suspension of...

Horst Bredekamp
Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010. 463 pp.; 203 b/w ills. Cloth € 39.90 (9783518585160 )
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September 10, 2014

The central portion of Horst Bredekamp's Theorie des Bildakts ("Theory of the Image-Act") closes with the verbal image of Aby Warburg as the figurehead of a ship, "gaze locked in apotropaic contact with the waves of destruction," alone in propounding the "irritating life" possessed by forms of all sorts (305–6). Warburg’s dictum, "Du lebst und thust mir nichts" (“You live and do nothing to me”), is the implicit epigram to Bredekamp's enterprise—given that Bredekamp frames...

Joost Vander Auwera and Irène Schaudies, eds.
Exh. cat. Brussels and New Haven: Mercatorfonds in association with Yale University Press, 2013. 320 pp.; 229 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300188714)

Exhibition schedule: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, October 12, 2012–January 27, 2013; Fridericianum, Museumslandschaft Hessen, Kassel, March 1–June 16, 2013

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September 5, 2014

Last year the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and the Museumlandschaft Hessen Kassel co-organized the provocative exhibition Jordaens and the Antique and published the accompanying catalogue under review here. Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678) has long been relegated to a distant third position in the pantheon of seventeenth-century Flemish painters, behind Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. Nonetheless, Jordaens outlived both Rubens and Van Dyck by twenty-five years and, as a result, became perhaps...