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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Gülru Necipoğlu
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005. 480 pp.; 250 color ills.; 300 b/w ills. Cloth $99.50 (9780691123264)
In this masterly new book, Gülru Necipoğlu examines completely afresh the centrality of Sinan, chief imperial Ottoman architect between 1538 and 1588, in the creation of what she calls “architectural culture.” Based on a wide variety of primary sources—including some not previously considered from the point of view of architectural history—this is the first exhaustive study offering a wealth of insights into Sinan’s architecture within the context of its own intellectual, political,... Full Review
December 3, 2006
Thumbnail
William Vaughn, Elizabeth E. Barker, and Colin Harrison
Exh. cat. Burlington, Vt.: Lund Humphries, 2005. 256 pp.; 233 color ills. $80.00 (0853319324)
British Museum, London, October 21, 2005–January 22, 2006; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 7–May 28, 2006
Samuel Palmer, 1805–1881: Vision and Landscape is much more than a handsome catalogue for a splendid exhibition of the same name. It is a significant contribution to the steadily growing literature about the artist. Essays by eight different scholars place Palmer within his historical context, while detailed entries about each of the 164 exhibited works—these pictures and more, all excellently reproduced in color—give the catalogue a refreshingly visual focus. That so many... Full Review
December 3, 2006
Thumbnail
Erik Thunø and Wolf Gerhard, eds.
Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2004. 320 pp.; many b/w ills. Paper (8882650000)
In the final section of Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), Hans Belting discusses the crisis of the cult image in the early modern period when holy images of the past lost their power due to new aesthetic criteria that promoted the cult of art and the emerging role of the artist. While monumental in its scope and methodology, Belting’s text and specifically his characterization of the “era of art” have not... Full Review
December 3, 2006
Thumbnail
Sarah Bassett
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 314 pp.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (052182723X)
The late antique city Constantinople, capital of the Roman Empire, was full of statues. Inhabitants and visitors to the city would have seen assemblies of sculpture on display in numerous public spaces throughout the city, in venues as varied as baths and civic basilicas, circus arenas and open forums. The collections were not only large, frequently bringing together dozens of individual sculptures, but they were also exceptionally varied, including subjects ranging from imperial portraits,... Full Review
December 3, 2006
Thumbnail
Marilyn Aronberg Lavin
New York: Phaidon, 2002. 352 pp.; 190 color ills.; 10 b/w ills. Paper $19.95 (0714837741)
James K. Banker
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003. 277 pp.; 1 ills. Cloth $62.50 (0472113011)
Both these books are welcome; and for this reviewer, at least, there can never be enough material about Piero della Francesca if it helps draw us nearer to understanding a painter whose memorable, orderly art is a balm for the soul, and who still stands like a giant among the creators of the Renaissance. By his own admission, James Banker is less interested in the works of art than in the facts, some seemingly negligible, that create the context of the Quattrocento painter’s world. He is... Full Review
November 28, 2006
Thumbnail
Kenneth Gowans and Sheryl E. Reiss, eds.
Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005. 461 pp.; 52 b/w ills. Cloth $99.95 (0754606805)
This volume is actually built more broadly than the title suggests: it deals in various ways with the whole lifetime of Giulio de’ Medici, rather than being narrowly confined to his incumbency as Pope Clement VII. One might superficially expect the volume to be of less immediate pertinence to the art historian than, say, Ashgate's splendid volumes devoted to the cultural world/politics of Cosimo I de' Medici and his duchess, Eleonora di Toledo. In fact, the scope of the essays is very wide in... Full Review
November 28, 2006
Thumbnail
Wayne Craven
New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. 288 pp.; 69 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0231133448)
As the field of American art emerged from second-class status in the 1960s, Wayne Craven’s wonderful volume on American sculpture helped define the field. Now, in this new book on Stanford White’s role as a decorator and antique dealer, Craven calls attention to a significant aspect of the American Gilded Age. Craven has produced a neat, careful volume documenting a half-dozen of White’s most opulent houses, those designed for William Collins Whitney, Colonel Oliver Hazard Payne, Payne... Full Review
November 7, 2006
Thumbnail
André Lortie, ed.
Exh. cat. Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture in association with Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group, 2004. 216 pp.; 252 ills. Paper Can 55.00 (1553650751)
“Every single standard-issue piece of mid-century modernist strategizing happened here,” says Michael Sorkin in the roundtable discussion appended to The 60s: Montreal Thinks Big. The book, a catalogue accompanying the homonymous exhibition held nearly two years ago at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, proves this claim beyond any doubt. Montreal not only thought big in the sense of pursuing large-scale urban projects intended to facilitate predictions of exponential population... Full Review
November 6, 2006
Thumbnail
Sally J. Cornelison and Scott B. Montgomery, eds.
Tempe, Ariz.: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2004. 284 pp.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0866983406)
Image, relic: our distinct terms may now imply discrete categories, but in pre-modern Italy such a division was often eroded, in practice. Think, for example, of the painted cross of San Damiano, which had addressed Francis as a young man and later became the property of the Clarisse. On the one hand, as Francis himself would later point out, it is nothing but paint and wood, inert; on the other hand, though, it was also seen as the discernible residue of a miraculous event. Both images and... Full Review
November 4, 2006
Thumbnail
Diana Yeongchau Chou
Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005. 276 pp.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $109.95 (0773460950)
Prior to this study and annotated translation by Diana Chou, an Anglophone’s introduction to the person and work of Tang Hou would likely have been Susan Bush and Hsio-yen Shih’s Early Chinese Texts on Painting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985). In that anthology, portions of Tang’s writings were excerpted and arranged thematically under headings such as “On Artists’ Styles” or “On Mounting and Collecting.” One of the significant contributions of Chou’s book is a complete... Full Review
November 4, 2006
Thumbnail