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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Brenda G. Jordan and Victoria Weston, eds.
Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003. 288 pp.; 14 color ills.; 57 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0824826086)
Probably everyone acquainted with Japanese art knows the two most famous anecdotes about the creation of painting. In the first, a master vexed by his student’s inability to depict a bamboo enjoins him to “become a bamboo.” No doubt apocryphal, there is nevertheless more than a grain in truth here, and this story constitutes one of the dominant myths of art production all across East Asia. This strain of thought is associated with the nanga (literati) movement, which held that there... Full Review
July 28, 2003
Susan R. Braden
Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002. 440 pp.; 27 color ills.; 133 b/w ills. Cloth $34.95 (0813025567)
In early February of 1891, shortly before the grand opening of his lavish Tampa Bay Hotel, Henry Plant received an affable, jokingly naïve telegram from Henry Flagler, the well-known railroad magnate who already owned three successful resort hotels in St. Augustine. “Friend Plant,” the wire read, “where is this place I’ve heard about called Tampa?” In turn, Plant sent a brief but confident reply: “Friend Flagler, just follow the crowds.” In the late nineteenth century and... Full Review
July 24, 2003
Diane Wolfthal
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 286 pp.; 118 b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (052158311X)
Diane Wolfthal’s Images of Rape: The “Heroic” Tradition and Its Alternatives is a difficult and necessary book to read; indeed, this should be required reading for anyone interested in understanding the visual cultures of Western traditions. The author examines a vast body of work through a feminist lens to explore the realities of rape for women—as well as for men—in late medieval and early modern Europe. Informed by her own feminist convictions and a comprehensive knowledge... Full Review
July 21, 2003
Jeffrey F. Hamburger
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. 347 pp.; 26 color ills.; 156 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0520228774)
In St. John the Divine: The Deified Evangelist in Medieval Art and Theology, Jeffrey Hamburger investigates the complex relationships forged in the later Middle Ages among art, mysticism, and visionary experience. In so doing, he continues the stimulating work he began in earlier, groundbreaking studies such as The Rothschild Canticles: Art and Mysticism in Flanders and the Rhineland ca. 1300 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990) and <a... Full Review
June 25, 2003
Annette Dixon
New York: Merrell Publishers, 2002. 192 pp.; 110 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (1858941660)
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, February 17–May 5, 2002; Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, September 19–December 8, 2002
Women Who Ruled: Queens, Goddesses, Amazons in Renaissance and Baroque Art contributes to the growing body of interdisciplinary research on women’s power in early modern Europe (or gender and power, more broadly), in practice and in imagery. Written to accompany an exhibition organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the book features an introduction and four topical essays by a cadre of scholars who represent different disciplinary approaches. Groups of images,... Full Review
June 24, 2003
Cecelia F. Klein, ed.
Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2001. 397 pp.; 118 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (088402279X)
Feminist art history is now a well-established subfield of Western art history, but until quite recently those studying gender in pre-Columbian art had to rely on a slim bibliography. Today, several contributions focusing on the pre-Columbian and early colonial world have appeared, including one on women throughout the ancient Americas (Karen Bruhns and Karen Stothert, Women in Ancient America [Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999]), another on gender in Mesoamerica... Full Review
June 20, 2003
Amy Winter
Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003. 320 pp.; some color ills.; some b/w ills. Cloth $64.95 (027597524X)
Yet another Count. After Balthus (Count Balthazar Klossowski de Rola by his own naming), we read that Wolfgang Paalen called himself “Count von Paalen” before selling his title in an impoverished moment in Paris. According to Amy Winter, Paalen—Count or not—authored the supposed monograph about himself in 1946, said to be by one Gustav Regler. That is already an obfuscation. Here is the story. In his autobiography, The Owl of Minerva, Regler enthuses in no uncertain terms... Full Review
June 19, 2003
Lynette M. F. Bosch
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. 292 pp.; 112 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0271019689)
For many American art historians, Spain’s fifteenth century is a murky period better known for its religious oppression and explosive colonialism than for its manuscripts. With Art, Liturgy, and Legend in Renaissance Toledo: The Mendoza and the Iglesia Primada, Lynette M. F. Bosch introduces Anglophone readers to the era through an assiduously detailed study of two-dozen illuminated liturgical manuscripts produced in fifteenth-century Toledo. Until now, these lavishly decorated... Full Review
June 18, 2003
Edgar Wind
Ed. Elizabeth Sears. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 400 pp.; 193 b/w ills. Cloth $99.00 (0198174292)
“Unless our reading takes us far away from the pictures, it will not lead us properly back to them.” So Edgar Wind (1900–1971) reflected in an early and abandoned draft of his introduction to Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958). Wind aptly encapsulated his method, which, it is sometimes forgotten, derived much of its Olympian energy and original character from deep attention to the language of form. “Iconography,” he continued in his... Full Review
June 13, 2003
Britta Erickson
Washington, D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in association with University of Washington Press, 2001. 112 pp.; 54 color ills.; 6 b/w ills. Paper $22.50 (0295981431)
Exhibition Schedule: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, October 21, 2001–May 12, 2002
Xu Bing is arguably the contemporary Chinese artist best known to audiences outside of China. Winner of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship and the subject of several one-person shows at small museums around the country, he has received worldwide recognition and has been the subject of several critical essays. Word Play: Contemporary Art by Xu Bing brought together several periods of the artist’s work for the first time in a major American museum exhibition. Like many Chinese artists... Full Review
June 12, 2003