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

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Julie Reiss
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 205 pp. Paper $23.00 (9780262681346 )
Mark Rosenthal
Munich: Prestel, 2003. 96 pp.; 14 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (3791329847)
Nicolas de Oliveira, Nicola Oxley, and Michael Petry
New York: Thames and Hudson, 2004. 208 pp.; 268 color ills.; 49 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (0500284512)
Claire Bishop
New York: Routledge, 2005. 144 pp.; 268 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (0415974127)
As an inherently heterogeneous practice, installation art presents a challenge to those who would define it and write its history. The task is both to determine its consistent attributes without being too exclusive and to parse the expanding number of works described as “installation art” into categories coherent enough to provide a critical framework. To complicate matters, these generally ephemeral pieces have often been only poorly documented in photographs and first-hand accounts. Given... Full Review
February 6, 2006
David Peters Corbett
University Park and Manchester, UK: Pennsylvania State University Press in association with Manchester University Press, 2005. 256 pp.; 22 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0271023619)
The concluding dozen pages of The World in Paint: Modern Art and Visuality in England, 1848–1914, spell out two concerns or commitments that underpin, but are not allowed to dominate, the preceding text. First of these is an assertion of the fundamental value of attention to the physical properties of the work of art, to what we actually see, and a renunciation of approaches, notably the social history of art, that tend to look elsewhere. The second is an attack on widespread... Full Review
February 3, 2006
Craig Clunas
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 2004. 232 pp.; 63 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0824827724)
This book is a distinguished addition to a distinguished body of work and an important contribution to studies of the Ming period. By looking at Wen Zhengming’s calligraphy and painting as objects embedded in complex networks of obligation, patronage, and reciprocity, Craig Clunas provides richly detailed new perspectives on familiar events and questions of the period. Although good English-language studies of Wen have been done in the past, this one is a significant advance. It incorporates... Full Review
February 3, 2006
Oliver Watson
Kuwait: Thames and Hudson in association with Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait National Museum, al-Sabah Collection, 2004. 512 pp.; 900+ color ills. Cloth $65.00 (0500976295)
This deluxe catalogue featuring Islamic ceramics from the al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait is a welcome addition to the literature on the subject. Although a few catalogues of Islamic ceramics collections have been published in the twenty-first century (for example, Géza Fehérvári’s Ceramics of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Museum, London: I.B.Tauris, 2000), the exceptional quality and range of the al-Sabah collection set it apart. In the introductory chapters of Ceramics... Full Review
January 27, 2006
Felipe Pereda and Fernando Marías, eds.
Madrid: Nerea, 2002. 398 pp.; 309 color ills.; 8 b/w ills. Cloth (848956986X)
One of the joys of archival research is making a discovery. Would that everyone’s could be as significant as the recovery by Felipe Pereda and Fernando Marías of a manuscript atlas of maps and bird’s-eye views of the entire coast of Spain assembled between 1622 and 1634 by the Portuguese cartographer, Pedro Teixeira (alternately, Texeira as used in the volume under review). The atlas survives at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, home also to the impressive collection of... Full Review
January 23, 2006
Elisabeth A. Fraser
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 286 pp.; 8 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521828295)
Elisabeth Fraser’s fine study of the French painter Eugène Delacroix’s early career is as much a work of inventive cultural history as of art history. Reading the paintings that made the artist’s reputation in the 1820s as part of the wider visual culture of post-revolutionary France, she challenges a standard view that equates Romanticism with liberalism and links Delacroix with political opposition to the Bourbon monarchy restored after the fall of Napoleon in 1814. Instead, she highlights... Full Review
January 23, 2006
Patricia Meilman, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 388 pp.; 103 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0521791804)
Peter Humfrey, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 384 pp.; 114 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0521662966)
Two of the latest, and unfortunately among the last, additions to the Cambridge Companions to the History of Art series are devoted to Giovanni Bellini and Titian. Together, the two books trace a trajectory from Bellini’s first documented notice in 1459 to the death of his one-time apprentice and eventual rival, Titian, in 1576. Edited by Peter Humfrey and Patricia Meilman, respectively, The Cambridge Companion to Giovanni Bellini and The Cambridge Companion to Titian... Full Review
January 17, 2006
Anne Derbes and Mark Sandona, eds.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 378 pp.; 95 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0521770076)
This latest volume in the Cambridge Companion series is, at its best moments, at the cutting edge of the state of research on the most famous and fabled personality of the early Renaissance in Italy, Giotto di Bondone (c. 1266–1337). A team of authors was assembled by editors Anne Derbes and Mark Sandona—themselves both important contributors to Giotto studies—to address two formidable challenges: to capture the verifiable shreds of documentary evidence of this artist’s life and career... Full Review
January 11, 2006
David R. Coffin
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004. 242 pp.; 145 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0271022930)
Best known as the architect of the sprawling Villa d’Este at Tivoli and the charming casino of Pius IV on the grounds of the Vatican, the sixteenth-century polymath Pirro Ligorio has not—until now—been the subject of a general-purpose biography. This is surprising considering the range of his accomplishments; beyond architecture, landscape design, and painting, Ligorio’s talents included cartography, the restoration of antique ruins and sculpture, and collecting (his set of ancient... Full Review
January 11, 2006
Angela Thirlwell
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. 392 pp.; 30 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0300102003)
Edwin Becker, Elizabeth Prettejohn, and Julian Treuherz
Exh. cat. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003. 248 pp.; 130 color ills.; 200 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0500093164)
Exhibition schedule: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, October 16, 2003–January 18, 2004; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, February 27–June 6, 2004
In nineteenth-century England, the artistic Rossetti family gave the world poet-painter Dante Gabriel, poet Christina, and William Michael, an art critic and career civil servant. The bohemian Dante Gabriel has inspired numerous biographies and other anecdotal histories, and his sumptuously painted female “stunners” frequently grace the pages of coffee table books and calendars. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a book complementing the 2003–04 exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool,... Full Review
December 19, 2005