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

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Rachel Cohen
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. 344 pp.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $27.95 (9780300149425)
Rachel Cohen’s clear, concise, and gracefully written retelling of the life of Bernard Berenson is far more manageable than Ernest Samuels’s long, magisterial biography published in 1979 (Ernest Samuels, Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). It would be unfair to think a much shorter account would cover any part of Berenson’s life in equal depth to Samuels’s study, but a reader might reasonably form that expectation about at least one... Full Review
May 17, 2017
Elizabeth Milroy
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 464 pp.; 188 b/w ills. Cloth $64.95 (9780271066769)
In his iconic 1964 The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press), Leo Marx surveyed early American literature and painting to uncover a uniquely American understanding of the collective landscape. Elizabeth Milroy—framing her lens on early Philadelphia—has produced an equally authoritative and compelling portrait of how a city’s actual landscape fabric has been fashioned through a process of negotiating and representing a... Full Review
May 12, 2017
Zeynep Yürekli
Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies. Burlington: Ashgate, 2012. 222 pp.; 57 b/w ills. Paper $54.95 (9781138270756)
The architecture of shrines has been neglected in Islamic architecture scholarship until recently. Among others, Kishwar Rizvi and John Curry have demonstrated how architectural patronage and the writing of hagiographies are intricate political acts and deserve a common analysis (Kishwar Rizvi, The Safavid Dynastic Shrine: Architecture, Religion and Power in Early Modern Iran, London: I.B. Tauris, 2011; and John J. Curry, The Transformation of Muslim Mystical Thought in the Ottoman... Full Review
May 10, 2017
Robert DeCaroli
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015. 280 pp.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780295994567)
Robert DeCaroli’s book bears the title Image Problems. But I read the text as Image Answers, for DeCaroli provides some remarkable insights into the conception and production of images by mining textual sources, both Buddhist and Brahmanical, in enormously impressive ways. For almost as long as the history of South Asian art has been studied, the question of when and where the Buddha image was first created—invented, some even might say—has been central. Given the long history of image... Full Review
May 3, 2017
David Cole
Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia: Images Publishing, 2015. 256 pp.; 195 color ills. Cloth $66.24 (9781864706048)
Karen Livingstone, Max Donnelly, and Linda Parry
Exh. cat. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016. 320 pp. Cloth $65.00 (9781851778546)
The titles of these two books aptly indicate the ambiguity that has always plagued any attempt to classify the work of Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941). Is he the modernist architect who advocated concrete construction, the machine, and eschewed ornamented surfaces, or is he the artisan architect who upheld the teachings of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and John Ruskin, followed Gothic principles, and produced scores of ornamental designs for furniture, wallpaper, and textiles?... Full Review
May 3, 2017
Patricia Blessing
Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 240 pp.; 10 color ills.; 73 b/w ills. Cloth $109.95 ( 9781472424068)
Patricia Blessing’s Rebuilding Anatolia after the Mongol Conquest: Islamic Architecture in the Lands of Rūm, 1240–1330 seeks to place the monuments within their immediate social and political landscape. Departing from previous approaches to the subject that have stressed continuities with architectural traditions of the prior Seljuk and later Ottoman period, Blessing instead emphasizes the local circumstances in which the monuments were produced. She considers how building forms and... Full Review
April 28, 2017
Thordis Arrhenius, Mari Lending, Wallis Miller, and Jérémie Michael McGowan, eds.
Zurich: Lars Müller Publishers, 2014. 248 pp.; 82 ills. Paper $50.00 (9783037784167)
Exhibitions of architecture have recently moved from the margins to the center of architectural history and theory. This shift reflects a greater tendency in scholarship to focus less on individual buildings and more on issues such as the institutional structures that underpin architectural practice, theoretical discourse and its dissemination, as well as architecture’s relationship to its publics and to mass media. These three themes provide the structure for the edited volume Place and... Full Review
April 27, 2017
Hélène Valance
Paris: Presses de l'Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2015. 356 pp.; 149 color ills. Cloth € 39.00 (9782840509950)
Anyone who cares about the representation of night in the modern era will want to have this beautiful book for the images alone, and anyone who can read French will profit from the strong analysis of nocturnal art and politics. Hélène Valance has written a much-needed history of how image makers reacted to the ways in which the American night was lit, exploited, and commercialized from the turn of the twentieth century until the U.S. entry into World War I—between the “closing” of the... Full Review
April 26, 2017
Susan E. Cahan
Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. 360 pp.; 20 color ills.; 113 ills. Cloth $34.95 (9780822358978)
Author’s note: When writing this review last summer, I could not foresee that it would be published just as depictions of anti-black violence in the Whitney Biennial were provoking international debate. These urgent conversations evoke the politics of race, representation, and privilege that animate Susan E. Cahan’s Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power and underscore the value of recovering this underexamined history. This month, July 2016, police... Full Review
April 20, 2017
Kathleen Nolan and Dany Sandron, eds.
AVISTA Studies in the History of Medieval Technology, Science and Art, 9. Burlington: Ashgate, 2015. 314 pp.; 31 color ills.; 126 b/w ills. Cloth $122.00 (9781472440556)
Although the aim of this volume is to show “the influence and guidance” (xxi) of the late French scholar Anne Prache, its thirteen studies do more. They honor the Sorbonne professor’s rich contributions to medieval art and architecture by embodying medieval memoria, or the art of memory as defined by Mary Carruthers’s magisterial works on the subject—“a memory architecture and a library built up during one’s lifetime with the express intention that it be used inventively” (Mary... Full Review
April 19, 2017