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

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Cherise Smith
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2020. 300 pp.; 151 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9781477319178)
Within the past five years, art historians and others interested in the intersection of race and representation have benefited from several noteworthy publications examining the role of visual culture, both current and historical, in the construction of American identity. To this list—which includes John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier’s Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (Liveright, 2015), Sarah Lewis’s edited issue of Aperture entitled “Vision & Justice” (Aperture 223, 2016), and Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (Penguin Random House, 2019)—must… Full Review
April 6, 2020
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Christian K. Kleinbub
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2020. 260 pp.; 40 color ills.; 77 b/w ills. Cloth $99.95 (9780271083780)
Among premodern artists, Michelangelo is by far the most written-about individual. Through books, articles, and popular culture we are inundated with information and interpretation about him. While the onslaught of literature will and must continue, it is rare when a book offers a fundamentally new way of considering the artist. Christian K. Kleinbub’s book Michelangelo’s Inner Anatomies does just that. It offers meaningful and original investigations into Michelangelo’s sense of self and the meaning of his art. Kleinbub seeks to turn Michelangelo and his art inside out. Rather than looking at surfaces and outward appearance, Kleinbub investigates how Michelangelo might… Full Review
April 2, 2020
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Marije Osnabrugge
Amsterdam Studies in the Dutch Golden Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019. 400 pp.; 20 color ills.; 89 b/w ills. Cloth €129.00 (9789462988200)
For a few decades now, immigration has been at the center of societal debates and political programs, at least in the Global North. Migrant artists are rarely mentioned in these discussions, perhaps because professional artists make up a relatively negligible segment of the total immigrant population. Conversely, however, it seems likely that nowadays a high percentage of those making a living by making art are migrants; the same goes for art historians. Marije Osnabrugge, the author of this timely book, for example, is a Dutch scholar working on a subject requiring long research stays in Italy, professionally based in Switzerland… Full Review
March 27, 2020
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Charlotte Guichard
Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2018. 368 pp.; 98 color ills. Cloth €31.00 (9782021402315)
In La griffe du peintre, Charlotte Guichard offers a reflection on the painter’s signature in France during the long eighteenth century, both as a sign of artistic identity and as a bearer of value. She convincingly argues that the topic is best served by anchoring analysis at the intersection of various perspectives, simultaneously tracing a “material history of easel painting and a cultural history of signature” (25; all translations are my own). Together, these approaches constitute what the author calls an “anthropology of painting” (23), a method she advocates that proceeds from the network of the actors (artists, dealers… Full Review
March 25, 2020
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Ünver Rüstem
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. 336 pp.; 204 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780691181875)
In this extensive study on eighteenth-century Ottoman Istanbul, Ünver Rüstem examines the evolution of baroque architecture under the patronage of five consecutive sultans, from Ahmed III (r. 1703–30) to Abdülhamid I (r. 1774–89), concluding with the significance of building activity during the reign of Sultan Selim III (r. 1789–1807) at the close of the century. Rüstem’s book thus presents one of the few comprehensive and chronological surveys of an entire century of sultanic patronage in Istanbul. In each chapter, architectural details are relayed in singular specificity and each monument is discussed through the use of numerous primary sources, Ottoman chronicles… Full Review
March 24, 2020
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Meiqin Wang
Routledge Research in Art and Politics. New York: Routledge, 2019. 252 pp.; 16 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $155.00 (9781138314344)
In the past few decades, the global contemporary art world has witnessed a significant revival of interest in the question of art’s social dimensions, including awareness of the public sphere, civic engagement, and participation in politics. This “social turn” has manifested as a critique of institutionalized postmodernism and neoliberal capitalism. The rise of socially engaged art in China has echoed this international art phenomenon. Artists, critics, and researchers are harnessing the power of art to pursue publicness, social criticism, community reconstruction, bottom-up citizen participation, grassroots interests, and social justice. In so doing, they have abandoned a continuing faith in the… Full Review
March 11, 2020
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Gülru Çakmak
Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2018. 256 pp.; 13 color ills.; 36 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781786940674)
Gülru Çakmak’s book on the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme was a joy to read. It is the first monograph that I have read that engages seriously, thoroughly, and deeply with Gérôme’s academic paintings. It focuses on the artist’s most famous works from the 1850s, an early stage in what was to become a stellar career within the institutional framework of nineteenth-century Paris: Duel after the Masquerade (1857), Prayer in the House of an Arnaut Chief (1857), Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant (1859), Death of Caesar (1867, extant in three versions) and César (the lost 1859 “close-up” version of Death of… Full Review
March 9, 2020
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Lamia Balafrej
Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019. 276 pp.; 74 color ills. Cloth $150.00 (9781474437431)
A stimulating read from start to finish, Lamia Balafrej’s The Making of the Artist in Late Timurid Painting is the first book-length analysis of one of the most important codices of Islamic art—the Cairo Bustan (The orchard). Currently preserved in Cairo, this fifteenth-century copy of Saʻdi’s (d. 1291) Persian book of poetry was produced in Herat (in today’s Afghanistan) for Husayn Bayqara (r. ca. 1470–1506), a ruler of the Timurid Empire, which dominated Central Asia and Iran from circa 1400 until 1507. The codex features an unsigned double-page frontispiece attributed to Miraq Naqqash—the head of the royal library in Herat—and… Full Review
March 6, 2020
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Dana E. Byrd and Frank H. Goodyear III
Exh. cat. Brunswick, ME and New Haven, CT: Bowdoin College Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2018. 208 pp.; 138 color ills. Hardcover $45.00 (9780300214550 )
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, June 22–October 28, 2018; Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, PA, November 17, 2018–February 17, 2019
Winslow Homer and Photography: A Reassessment Over the past decade, the Portland Museum of Art’s restoration of the Winslow Homer (1836–1910) studio on Prouts Neck in Scarborough, Maine, and the acquisition of his view camera by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art have spurred important new scholarship about Homer’s relationship to the visual culture of his day. The recent exhibition and catalog Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting carefully reexamine Homer’s life and art in relation to the emergence of photography over the course of his prolific career. Period photographs in particular have expanded our… Full Review
February 28, 2020
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Asma Naeem
Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 248 pp.; 49 color ills.; 27 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520298989)
Asma Naeem’s book starts with one of those “aha” moments that occur when, as an art historian, you recognize that you have been overlooking a simple but persistent phenomenon relevant to your subject. Vision, it turns out, is not the only sense relevant to the field—hearing matters too. Naeem’s first sentence will not surprise most art historians: “Museums weren’t always the hallowed spaces of reflection that they are today” (1). However, she builds on this straightforward observation to provide a wide range of novel insights. Ultimately, Out of Earshot is framed by a simple but potent question: what if we… Full Review
February 24, 2020
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