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

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Making Culture Visible: The Public Display of Photography at Fairs, Expositions, and Exhibitions in the United States, 1847–1900 addresses the changing reception of photography from its early days up to the turn of the century as a function of expanding exhibition opportunities and strategies. It is the eighth volume in the Gordon and Breach series “Documenting the Image” (now distributed by Routledge) intended to promote visual collections from around the world and to... Full Review
January 10, 2003
Todd P. Olson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. 316 pp.; 25 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300093381)
More than a generation ago, Anthony Blunt and Denis Mahon developed ways of thinking about Nicholas Poussin and his art that, although recently the subject of prolonged scrutiny and occasional criticism, still remain canonical. Poussin, the French-born philosopher-painter, returned to his native country as an adult only briefly, when commanded by Cardinal Richelieu to organize the renovation of the Grande Galerie of the Louvre. This great painter was by choice a lifelong resident of Rome--and... Full Review
January 9, 2003
Monica Blackmun Visonà, Robin Poyner, Herbert M. Cole, Michael D. Harris, Rowland Abiodun, and Suzanne Preston Blier
Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall in association with Harry N. Abrams, 2001. 544 pp.; 129 color ills.; 600 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0810934485)
A History of Art in Africa is the product of two decades of research and writing by a team of scholars who represent Africanist art historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, and other teachers of African visual culture in the United States. Led by Monica Visonà and Robin Poynor, the team includes Herbert M. Cole and Michael D. Harris. The book is intended to be a general undergraduate text on African art and so fills a gap that has plagued Africanists for years. Until recently, they... Full Review
January 8, 2003
Joan B. Landes
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001. 288 pp.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (080143811X)
In her latest book, Joan B. Landes tackles one of the French Revolution’s most recalcitrant iconographic paradoxes. How is it, she asks, that popular prints relied so heavily on female figures to embody notions of liberty, justice, and the French Republic at a time when the flesh-and-blood women of France were decisively drummed out of public political activity? She finds her answer in a deeply divided realm that she terms “graphic politics,” where visual and political rhetoric interacted to... Full Review
January 7, 2003
Antonio Natali, ed.
Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2000. 127 pp.; 115 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $110.00 (8882152766)
Several publications released in the past decade have reinvigorated studies of Leonardo da Vinci and, more specifically, have spurred an ongoing critical reappraisal of his early work. Thorny matters, including the nature of his apprenticeship to Andrea del Verrocchio, the range of his experience before entering into that master’s workshop, his delayed matriculation in the Florentine painters’ guild, and--perhaps the slipperiest question of all--how the young artist struggled to find his own... Full Review
December 18, 2002
Ingrid Ehrhardt and Simon Reynolds, eds.
Munich: Prestel, 2000. 334 pp.; 130 color ills.; 154 b/w ills. Cloth (3791323385)
Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, February 26-April 30, 2000; Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham, England, May 26-June 30, 2000; and Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm, Sweden, August 25-November 5, 2000
While a number of recent exhibitions have examined Symbolist art in a European context, Kingdom of the Soul: Symbolist Art in Germany 1870–1920 was the first international show to focus exclusively on German art from the turn-of-the-century period.[1] Despite the inclusive parameters in its title, most of works included date from the Wilhelmine period (1890–1914). Coorganized by the English art historian, Simon Reynolds, and Ingrid Ehrhardt, curator at Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle,... Full Review
December 13, 2002
The “Pagan Fables” in Dutch Painting of the Golden Age: Narrative Subject Matter from Classical Mythology in the Northern Netherlands, ca. 1590–1670 is not the first publication of Eric Jan Sluijter’s groundbreaking dissertation on the representation of Ovid’s fables in Dutch painting. Many cherish their copy of the privately produced 1986 edition, with its stamp-size images and unglued pages. Even then Ivan Gaskell expressed the wish that this low-cost issue would soon be followed by... Full Review
December 11, 2002
Francesco Caglioti
Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2000. 530 pp.; 357 b/w ills. Cloth (8822249410)
Francesco Caglioti has written a masterful pair of volumes that transform our knowledge about Donatello’s bronze sculptures, the David and the Judith and Holofernes, and consequently our understanding of quattrocento (and cinquecento) Florentine sculpture. The author supports his arguments with an impressive array of documentary discoveries, evidence culled from unpublished contemporary sources, and careful rereading of well-known writers like Giorgio Vasari. Caglioti is equally... Full Review
December 11, 2002
Andrew Morrall
Burlington: Ashgate, 2002. 308 pp.; 10 color ills.; 147 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (1840146087)
Jörg Breu the Elder (ca. late 1470s–1537) was a leading artist working in Augsburg, Germany, which along with Albrecht Dürer’s Nuremberg became one of the primary commercial centers in the Holy Roman Empire. Breu’s career (and with it Augsburg) certainly has received new life in the past several years, with Andrew Morrall’s recent book complementing Pia Cuneo’s monograph, Art and Politics in Early Modern Germany: Jörg Breu the Elder and the Fashioning of Political Identity, ca.... Full Review
December 9, 2002
David Clarke
Duke University Press, 2002. 224 pp.; 35 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (0822329204)
Despite the proliferation of critical discussion accompanying the body of work known as contemporary Chinese art, there has been little, if any, attention accorded to art produced in Hong Kong. In David Clarke’s new survey, however, he attempts to remedy this situation by introducing a wide array of artists in Hong Kong who operate under what he asserts as “hybridity.” A professor of art history at Hong Kong University and an active scholar on Hong Kong art, Clarke has followed up on his... Full Review
December 6, 2002