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

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Guy Hedreen
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 408 pp.; 25 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Hardcover $120.00 (9781107118256)
In describing Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini wedding portrait, signed and dated by the artist in 1434, Ernst Gombrich wrote: “For the first time in history the artist became the perfect eye-witness in the truest sense of the term.” But is this actually the first instance? In the late sixth century BCE an Athenian vase painter signed his name “Smikros egrapsen” (Smikros painted it) on a... Full Review
June 8, 2018
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Catherine Walworth
Series: Refiguring Modernism. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 248 pp.; 34 color ills.; 66 b/w ills. Hardcover $94.95 (9780271077697)
Catherine Walworth’s Soviet Salvage: Imperial Debris, Revolutionary Reuse, and Russian Constructivism is an unusual entry in the literature on early Soviet art, which is sure to puzzle many readers and (in all likelihood) infuriate at least a few. Readers of academic books are familiar enough with such responses, immersed as we are in the unceasing drive for self-criticism and revision that dulls the polemical sting to a tickle. Walworth’s book is no argument for argument’s sake,... Full Review
June 4, 2018
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Jane Taylor
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. 165 pp.; 71 color ills.; 6 b/w ills. Hardcover $35.00 (9780226791203)
Jane Taylor, friend and longtime collaborator of William Kentridge, examines the artistic process behind Kentridge’s 2010 production of the Russian opera The Nose, which was based on Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 short story of the same name and composed by Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich in 1928. As Taylor tells us, the book is less about the production of the opera and more about the making of it. In other words, she is interested in examining how the artist deals with... Full Review
May 31, 2018
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When SmartHistory.org, the online scholarly resource for art history students and instructors, debuted in 2007, it was a radical proposition. Instead of purchasing expensive textbooks, students could access videos modeling in-depth visual analysis of well-known works of art and architecture, robustly researched essays on single works and overarching themes, and images that articulate a global art history survey, free through their web browser. Both... Full Review
May 23, 2018
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Heidi C. Gearhart
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 236 pp.; 30 color ills.; 37 b/w ills. Cloth $94.95 (9780271077154)
Through the pages of Heidi Gearhart’s book, Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art, readers are introduced to the surviving medieval copies of Theophilus’s text, On Diverse Arts, and are provided the opportunity to reframe the academy’s classification of this celebrated treatise. Gearhart makes a convincing argument that based on physical evidence, along with the prologues and instructions of On Diverse Arts (often described as a practical handbook or a... Full Review
May 21, 2018
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Robert Williams
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 314 pp.; 113 b/w ills. Cloth £75.00 (9781107131507)
In Raphael and the Redefinition of Art in Renaissance Italy, Robert Williams has three aims. First, he wants to offer a new account of the achievement of Raphael, emphasizing his expansion of painting’s expressive and conceptual range. Second, he seeks to redefine the Renaissance in Raphael’s image, arguing that Raphael transformed Renaissance art in essential ways that he thinks have been misplaced by recent art historians. Third, he argues for the reorientation of the whole of art... Full Review
May 17, 2018
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Leon Wainwright
Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017. 240 pp.; 45 color ills.; 5 b/w ills. Paperback $34.95 (9781781384176)
With the objective of freeing the art of British artists of African, Asian, and Caribbean descent, known as “black British artists,” from its historically racialized silo, Leon Wainwright’s new book, Phenomenal Difference: A Philosophy of Black British Art, sets out the author’s ambitious project: to bring the philosophy of phenomenology to bear upon these artworks. This book is theoretically well-grounded, and Wainwright has clearly spent a great deal of time contemplating Martin... Full Review
May 14, 2018
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Heinrich Wölfflin
Trans. Jonathan Blower. 100th Anniversary Edition. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015. 368 pp.; 122 b/w ills. Paperback $34.95 (9781606064528)
Wölfflin and the Promise of Anonymity From a certain perspective, it is unclear why art history needs a new translation of Heinrich Wölfflin’s The Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Early Modern Art. There are a range of other foundational documents of the discipline that have yet to receive even a first hearing. Moreover, the M. D. Hottinger translation of the text is in print and widely available, and retains much of the elegance,... Full Review
May 11, 2018
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Leigh Raiford and Heike Raphael-Hernandez, eds.
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 392 pp.; 21 color ills.; 64 b/w ills. Hardcover $30.00 (9780295999579)
Leigh Raiford and Heike Raphael-Hernandez have done a great service to the field of visual culture studies with the publication of Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Culture. They have brought together an important collection of recent essays on the eponymous themes and topics, but they have also produced with this volume (stemming from a 2014 VolkswagenStiftung-sponsored symposium in Hanover, Germany) a nodal point in the broadening network of intellectual... Full Review
May 9, 2018
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Jacqueline Jung
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 282 pp.; 30 color ills.; 180 b/w ills. Cloth $113.00 (9781107022959)
The Gothic Screen contributes to the body of integrative studies of Gothic art and architecture with an examination of the monumental choir screen that stood between the liturgical choir and the nave and ambulatory. Not a comprehensive catalogue of Gothic screens, the book seeks to “expand our sense of what screens accomplished in their ecclesiastical setting,” which is here understood as “both the physical setting of the Gothic church and the social environment that the... Full Review
May 8, 2018
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