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

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Debora Silverman
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000. 576 pp.; 147 color ills.; 59 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0374282439)
The sometimes cordial, often contentious relationship of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin has inspired scholars, curators, novelists, and Hollywood filmmakers. Their personal differences and the divergences in their approaches to art, particularly when they shared a studio in Provence, have fascinated art historians and the broader public alike. Debora Silverman's Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art addresses both groups of readers. This ambitious goal may explain both the... Full Review
August 16, 2002
Margaret Haines, ed.
Florence: Edizioni Cadmo, 2001. 318 pp.; 161 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (8879232460)
During the approximately six centuries of its construction (1296–ca. 1900), Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence, was a focus of Florentine life not only because of its importance as a religious monument, but also because of the monetary expense and the enormous amount of time and energy invested in its building and decoration. Of all of the embellishments commissioned, the Duomo of Florence is most famous for the sculpture carried out for its interior and exterior, façade, and... Full Review
August 14, 2002
Mirka Benes and Dianne Harris, eds.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 448 pp.; 167 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0521782252)
Following a symposium held at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC, in 1995 that honored Elisabeth Blair MacDougall, director of landscape studies from 1972 to 1988, Mirka Benes and Dianne Harris commissioned an anthology of articles that present diverse methodological approaches to the history of the villa and the garden in France and Italy from ca. 1550 to 1800. Each of the eleven articles in Villas and Gardens in Early Modern Italy and France offers a stimulating analysis of specific... Full Review
August 14, 2002
Timon Screech
London: Reaktion Books, 1999. 311 pp.; 20 color ills.; 91 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (1861890448)
The Shogun's Painted Culture: Fear and Creativity in the Japanese States 1760–1829 is the third monograph published by Timon Screech since 1996 and completes his panorama of late nineteenth-century Japanese culture. Though the title features both Japan's military ruler and period painting, the primary topics of the book are actually Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758–1829, chief shogunal councillor 1787–92, shogunal regent 1789–92) and the cultural history of his times. Screech covers this... Full Review
August 8, 2002
Françoise Choay
Trans. Lauren M. O’Connell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 255 pp.; 21 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0521454743)
The value of conserving vestiges of the past for future generations has become naturalized in our evaluation of urban change. Preservation of historic built environments is deemed a good thing, and those who stand in its way are considered mercenary, trading cultural value for short-term monetary return. Or so the argument goes. However, the line between old and new is increasingly hard to draw, as is the definition of cultural value. American historic preservation laws only apply to... Full Review
August 8, 2002
Yuri Piatnitsky, Oriana Baddeley, and Earleen Brunner, eds.
Seattle: University of Washington Press in association with Saint Catherine Foundation, London, 2000. 456 pp.; 550 color ills. Cloth $100.00 (0295980273)
Exhibition Schedule: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 19-September 18, 2000
Brilliant and hermetic, Byzantine art exhibitions have glittered across the millennial decade (1993–2004), leaving us to ponder what they have altered or reclaimed. The groundbreaking exhibition held in Athens in 1964 claimed in its title, Byzantine Art, an European Art. "Why?" rejoined Greek critic Iannes Tsarouches. "Why not call Byzantine art an American art? This isn't paradoxical: from a certain point of view Byzantium has much more in common with America than Europe" ("Parataires... Full Review
August 1, 2002
Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 1999. 284 pp.; many color ills.; some b/w ills. Cloth (0824820738)
In this monograph, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada examine kuchi-e, or woodblock print frontispieces, that decorated Japanese magazines between 1890 and 1912. In seven chapters they assess kuchi-e from various perspectives relating to historical novels, Meiji literature, and traditional folklore and customs, as well as social changes, including women's issues. They also explore shifts in pictorial styles to provide a rich synthesis of image and literature. Merritt and Yamada... Full Review
July 31, 2002
Ginger Cheng-Chi Hsü
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000. 330 pp.; 1 color ills.; 45 b/w ills. Cloth $49.50 (0804732523)
Among the questions that have piqued the interest of Chinese art historians most in recent years is how painters were paid. Negotiations with patrons and clients were almost never a matter of record; indeed, fiscal transactions were rarely discussed, even by the parties involved, but rather conducted on the basis of mutually understood codes of value, taste, and reciprocity. Compensation might well come in the form of gifts and favors rather than money, further obscuring the outlines of the... Full Review
July 29, 2002
Jennifer Mundy, ed.
Exh. cat. Princeton University Press in association with Tate Publishing, 2001. 352 pp.; 300 color ills. $65.00 (0691090645)
Tate Modern, London, September 20, 2001-January 1, 2002; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February 6-May 12, 2002
Surrealism: Desire Unbound is an anthology of scholarly essays published to accompany a new travelling exhibition on Surrealism. This large-scale, well-illustrated de facto catalogue features twelve essays by a diversity of scholars, including museum curators, academic art historians, and literary critics. The volume succeeds as a considerable contribution to the ample body of literature dedicated to the movement. As the title suggests, the central theme of the anthology is a... Full Review
July 23, 2002
Caroline Arscott and Katie Scott, eds.
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001. 233 pp.; 74 b/w ills. Cloth $74.95 (0719055210)
This anthology was put together by the editors under the auspices of a group of women teachers at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Caroline Arscott, senior lecturer in nineteenth-century British art, and Katie Scott, lecturer in early modern French art and architecture, formulated and nurtured their project in discussions with their colleagues, several of whom ultimately contributed essays to the finished book. The anthology consists of eight essays (one by each of the editors is... Full Review
July 19, 2002