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

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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
Martin Bressani
Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 623 pp.; 86 color ills.; 64 b/w ills. Cloth $114.95 (9780754633402)
Martin Bressani’s Architecture and the Historical Imagination brings psychological unity to the life and work of Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, the nineteenth-century French architect, restorer, and theorist whose numerous and diverse activities continue to enthrall and perplex historians. In the groundbreaking 1980 catalogue of an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris commemorating the centenary of Viollet-le-Duc’s death, Bruno Foucart (who supervised Bressani’s 1997 dissertation)... Full Review
April 19, 2017
Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio, ed.
Burlington: Ashgate, 2015. 254 pp.; 4 color ills.; 76 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781472460905)
Making and Moving Sculpture in Early Modern Italy addresses important issues concerning the material and economic history of sculpture, and explores the ways in which mobility, physicality, materiality, collaborations, costs of materials, and technologies had an impact on how the works were conceived and made by their authors and perceived by the public. As editor Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio articulates in the introduction, “practical issues as durability and modes of transport were of... Full Review
April 14, 2017
Neil De Marchi and Sophie Raux, eds.
Studies in European Urban History (1100–1800), Vol. 34. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. 338 pp.; 43 b/w ills. Paper $119.00 (9782503548081)
Gerrit Verhoeven
Trans. Diane Webb. Egodocuments and History, Vol. 9. Leiden: Brill, 2015. 365 pp.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $163.00 (9789004292710)
Netherlandish art was a standard feature of art collections large and small throughout early modern Europe, and many masters from the Low Countries took their techniques, styles, and themes abroad. Historians have acknowledged this international dimension, from Horst Gerson’s monumental Ausbreitung und Nachwirkung der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts (Amsterdam: Israël, 1942) to the 2013 volume of the Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art (Leiden: Brill) devoted to... Full Review
April 13, 2017
Vernon James Knight Jr.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 214 pp.; 45 b/w ills. Cloth $110.00 (9781107022638)
Ancient images produced in contexts from which no written records survive present a formidable challenge to iconographers. Vernon James Knight Jr. argues that studies of such imagery are particularly vulnerable to specious claims based on intuition and superficial analysis, a problem he addresses in Iconographic Method in New World Prehistory. In response to what he describes as a lack of methodological rigor in “a field of study that is still in search of academic respectability”... Full Review
April 13, 2017
Barbara Miller Lane
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. 320 pp.; 224 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9780691167619)
James A. Jacobs
Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015. 272 pp. Cloth $45.00 (9780813937618)
My dad remembers being lifted up by my grandfather into the bay window of a large, white bi-level ranch house in the suburbs of New Jersey. It was the spring of 1968, and this house was one of three standing in the new development surrounded by farmland, only a twenty-minute drive outside of Newark. His slim, nine-year old body fit through the window, and he walked down into the foyer to unlock the front door from inside. My grandfather entered to inspect the house he had purchased that fall... Full Review
April 12, 2017
Vered Maimon
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. 269 pp.; 43 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9780816694723)
In Singular Images, Failed Copies, Vered Maimon investigates William Henry Fox Talbot and his connection with early photography. After H. J. P. Arnold’s, Gail Buckland’s, and Larry Schaaf’s monographic works and studies on Talbot—first published in the 1970s and making essential original sources accessible—a renewed interest in Talbot and early photography has occurred. On the one hand, this could be linked to Schaaf’s online research project on Talbot’s correspondence <a... Full Review
April 6, 2017
Marian Wardle and Sarah E. Boehme, eds.
Exh. cat. Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West, Vol. 23. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. 240 pp.; 128 color ills.; 27 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780806152912)
Exhibition schedule: Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Provo, February 19–August 13, 2016; Stark Museum of Art, Orange, TX, March 11–September 09, 2017
Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900–1950 is a lavishly illustrated exhibition catalogue containing seven essays by art historians, literary scholars, and poets, as well as an introduction by the exhibition’s co-curators. With its wide range of stimulating perspectives and insights, the catalogue offers a substantive conversation among the authors who consider the works and the legends of the Taos Society of Artists (TSA). The group’s paintings, and those of Maynard... Full Review
April 5, 2017