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

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Catherine Roach
Studies in Art Historiography. New York: Routledge, 2016. 218 pp.; 40 color ills.; 53 b/w ills. Cloth $145.45 (9781472454690)
Catherine Roach’s Pictures-within-Pictures in Nineteenth-Century Britain announces its quirky theme in its title: paintings that appear within paintings. Such pictures provide a guilty pleasure for the art historian, providing—in Roach’s words—“the delighted surprise that comes from identifying an image from memory and seeing it made strange” (19). Yet Roach’s book demonstrates that this is not just an art-historical gimmick or a simple riddle. Rather, through such pictures, artists... Full Review
January 17, 2018
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Julian Brooks
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2015. 264 pp.; 123 color ills.; 9 b/w ills. Hardcover $59.00 (9781606064382)
J. Paul Getty Museum, June 23–September 13, 2015; Frick Collection in New York, October 6, 2015–January 10, 2016.
Andrea del Sarto manages to be both the painter’s painter and the draughtsman’s draughtsman. Best known for paintings, such as the so-called Madonna of the Harpies, that combine Leonardo da Vinci’s sense of the expressive possibilities of chiaroscuro with a strong feeling for the innate beauty of resonant chromatic harmony—a painterly achievement of extraordinary intuitive brilliance—he is also one of the greatest draughtsmen who ever lived. Francesco Bocchi, an underrated writer on... Full Review
January 16, 2018
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Elizabeth Kindall
Harvard East Asian Monographs (Book 389). Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2016. 504 pp.; 130 color ills. Hardcover $89.95 (9780674088436)
This generously illustrated volume is a welcome contribution to scholarship on seventeenth-century Chinese landscape painting and artistic expressions of loyalism to the fallen Ming dynasty (1368–1644) after the rise of the Manchu Qing (1644–1911). In highlighting geo-narrative, a previously unrecognized category of site-specific painting, Kindall has richly contextualized the distinctive works of Huang Xiangjian, a Suzhou artist who gained fame for his extraordinary filial... Full Review
January 10, 2018
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Anne Nishimura Morse and Anne E. Havinga
Exh. cat. Boston: Musuem of Fine Arts, Boston, 2016. 208 pp.; 145 color ills. Hardcover $60.00 (9780878468270)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, April 5–July 12, 2015; Japan Society, New York, March 11–June 12, 2016
In the Wake examines how Japanese photographers have processed the disasters of March 11, 2011. On that day, three cataclysmic and interrelated events fell upon Japan like disastrous dominos: first, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the country shifted the earth’s axis several inches and devastated northeast Japan; second, a powerful tsunami resulting from the disruption of the Pacific Ocean floor inundated the Tōhoku region with waves measuring more than 130 feet... Full Review
January 10, 2018
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René Brimo
Trans. Kenneth Haltman. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 424 pp.; 43 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.97 (9780271073248)
In August 1933, twenty-two-year-old René Brimo traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to research his dissertation in the history of art for the University of Paris. Using Harvard as his base, he planned to study the history of collecting in the United States. His subject, cannily chosen, would enable him to combine academic ambition with commercial interests. In an era of burgeoning internationalism in intellectual circles, he was eager to expand his scholarly contacts. And as the son of a... Full Review
January 9, 2018
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Niall Atkinson
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 280 pp.; 50 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Hardcover $39.95 (9780271071206)
After first poking around in The Noisy Renaissance, I found myself wondering when during the day Donatello worked most efficiently, where he stashed his ready cash, whom he spoke with on a regular basis, and how he responded when he heard a bell ring. After reading Atkinson’s book, I know that Donatello’s response to the ringing of a bell would have depended on where he was, on which bell was sounding, and on the time of day, the day of the week, and the moment in the cycle... Full Review
January 9, 2018
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Abigail McEwen and Susanna Temkin
New York: David Zwirner Books, 2016. 192 pp.; 138 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.00 (9781941701331)
David Zwirner Gallery, New York, January 7—February 20, 2016
To a degree unparalleled in many other subfields of art history, twentieth-century Latin America has come into focus through exhibitions and accompanying catalogues. Indeed, these exhibitions often presage scholarly immersion in—or even assembly of—a related archive. Witness the dominance of selected institutions in establishing the canon for study of modern and contemporary Latin American art in the anglophone world: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York; the Museum of... Full Review
January 9, 2018
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Martina Bagnoli, ed.
Exh. cat. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 2017. 280 pp.; 241 color ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300222951)
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, October 16, 2016–January 8, 2017.
Reaching beyond sight has become a commonly stated aim of art history. For medievalists, interest in the connections between art and embodied sensation grows logically from the field’s long-standing and rich examination of vision and its particular attention to materiality. This legacy brings with it certain propensities—most notably a bias toward religious objects and the relationships they structure between bodily experience and the apprehension of God. The ambitious A Feast for the... Full Review
December 22, 2017
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Elaine K. Gazda and John R. Clarke, eds.
Exh. cat. Kelsey Museum Publication (Book 14). Ann Arbor: Kelsey Museum Publications, 2016. 288 pp. Paperback $25.97 (9780990662341)
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, February 19–May 15, 2016; Museum of the Rockies at the Montana State University, June 18–December 31, 2016; Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts, February 3–August 13, 2017
The raison d’être for the publication of Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis near Pompeii was the traveling exhibition of the same name organized by Elaine Gazda and John Clarke at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology of the University of Michigan, with additional venues at Montana State University and Smith College Museum of Art (where this reviewer saw the exhibition in February 2017). Without the exhibition, it is unlikely that a new and lavishly illustrated... Full Review
December 21, 2017
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Mary Hunter
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016. 280 pp.; 60 b/w ills. Hardcover $33.95 (9780719097577)
Written from the perspective of visual culture studies, broadly speaking The Face of Medicine addresses “the entanglement of art, science, politics, and popular culture in the early Third Republic” (1). Knowledge of that political regime is assumed, and readers rusty on their French history may find themselves stymied. Of course such information is readily, and amply, available, whereas Mary Hunter’s examination of medical masculinities in late nineteenth-century Paris is unique,... Full Review
December 20, 2017
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