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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Sascha T. Scott
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015. 280 pp.; 58 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780806144849)
During the heyday of the Taos/Santa Fe School, which lasted from about 1915 to the mid-1930s, support came from two different kinds of patrons: those intrigued by an exotic and remote Indian civilization in the far Southwest, which somehow doubled as an early America; and those who looked on the same group of Indians as descendants of the ancient Anasazi tribes, with cultural attributes that merited preservation. Distinguishing between the two groups has never been easy; some patrons... Full Review
December 19, 2017
Brian A. Brown and Marian H. Feldman, eds.
Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013. 812 pp. Hardcover $149.99 (9781614510291)
Brian A. Brown and Marian H. Feldman’s volume, Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art, is first an outstanding reflection, and stands at the leading edge, of ancient Near Eastern art history. Perfectly poised within current scholarship in the larger discipline of art history, the essays touch upon trends of interdisciplinarity, post-processual theory, materiality, and thing-theory, to name just a few. As the larger field of art history is beginning to embrace the turn to... Full Review
December 18, 2017
Denise Y. Arnold and Elvira Espejo
New York: Thames & Hudson, 2015. 352 pp.; 450+ color ills. Hardcover $95.00 (9780500517925)
The Andean Science of Weaving: Structures and Techniques of Warp-Faced Weaves is a monumental volume that contributes an important perspective to the study of Andean textiles: “a world view perceived from a weaver’s ‘fingertips’” (18). This tremendous undertaking by authors Denise Y. Arnold and Elvira Espejo represents years of research and fieldwork experience, as well as extensive and creative thought not only about the way in which weavers of the Andean highlands construct... Full Review
December 15, 2017
Susan Best
New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 232 pp.; 52 b/w ills. Hardback $26.99 (9781472529787)
What art can do in relation to historical trauma has been discussed most thoroughly through the Holocaust. After (the misreading of) Adorno’s famous dictum on the impossibility of using art to work through a trauma of such scale, art has, from the distance of several decades, more or less successfully returned to the question. Claude Lanzmann’s filmic monument to the catastrophe, Shoah (1985), can stand as an emblem for this aesthetic return. It leveraged a monumental time frame... Full Review
December 14, 2017
Gerardo Boto Varela and Justin E. A. Kroesen, eds.
Architectura Medii Aevi. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2016. 332 pp.; 36 color ills.; 76 b/w ills. $100.49 (9782503552507)
Traditionally a Romanesque cathedral (ca. 1000–1200 CE) is distinguished from other Romanesque churches because it includes one extra piece of furniture: the cathedra, or bishop’s throne. Since today no single cathedral built between the fourth and the twelfth centuries is preserved in its original shape, it is perhaps difficult to refine this definition of Romanesque cathedrals. Even if the exterior shell of the Romanesque cathedral remains intact, very little is known about... Full Review
December 13, 2017
Bruce Redford
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 224 pp.; 120 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300219302)
Scholarly interest in the enigmatically alluring art of Sargent, galvanized by the 1998–9 retrospective and numerous exhibitions since, is still thriving. In the most recent monograph on the artist, John Singer Sargent and the Art of Allusion, Bruce Redford contends that “no portrait painter in the Anglo-American tradition is more consistently and inventively allusive than Sargent” (15). Redford suggests that Sargent’s sustained childhood exposure to the old masters, his... Full Review
December 13, 2017
Greta Kaucher
Geneva: Librarie Droz, 2015. 1592 pp.; 54 b/w ills. Paperback $129.24 (9782600018425 )
Historians of eighteenth-century art, architecture, science, and engineering will undoubtedly have typed out the name “Jombert” many times in their footnotes, for this family was the publisher of nearly a thousand titles between the late 1680s and early 1810s. In a remarkable gift not only to the history of the book, but also to the story of how a pan-European public sphere was formed in which artistic and architectural information was debated, Greta Kaucher has produced a comprehensive... Full Review
December 12, 2017
Marc Gotlieb
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 320 pp.; 48 color ills.; 77 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780226276045)
The first English-language book on this mid-nineteenth-century French painter, The Deaths of Henri Regnault will become an important reference with its many leads for art historians to pursue. Its first four chapters examine Regnault’s decade-long career, which took off when he won the Prix de Rome in 1866 and ended with his death in 1871; the final three examine his posthumous reputation until World War I, when it precipitously declined. Marc Gotlieb’s attempt to revive... Full Review
December 11, 2017
Ernst van de Wetering
Oakland: University of California Press, 2016. 340 pp.; c. 300 color ills. Paper $49.95 (9780520290259)
It is hard to imagine that a painter as provocative and awe-inspiring as Rembrandt created his oeuvre without having a theory of art. His works are outspoken, offering robust statements (as Hubert Damisch and Mieke Bal would say) about the nature and status of pictorial representation. To have such pictorial statements further articulated and contextualized would have made a great book. However, in Rembrandt: The Painter Thinking, Ernst van de Wetering approaches with great caution... Full Review
December 11, 2017
John B. Ravenal, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 140 pp.; 165 color ills. Hardcover $45.00 (9780300220063)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, November 12, 2015-February 20, 2016
The illuminating exhibition Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss, and the Cycle of Life recently at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), explored the deep connections between what seems at first glance to be the work of two starkly different artists. Both the exhibition and meticulously researched catalogue essay examine... Full Review
December 8, 2017