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

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Lawrence Nees, ed.
Cambridge, Mass.: Medieval Academy of America, 1998. 257 pp.; 156 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (0915651092)
This volume gives an interesting sample, though not a survey, of current scholarship on the art of early medieval Europe. Its editor, Lawrence Nees, has given it shape and balance that clearly reflect his own approach to the material. Nees has long been constructing bridges over the divide between Western "medieval" and "Byzantine" art, an enterprise indebted to the example of Ernst Kitzinger, to whom this book is dedicated. Geographical boundaries are facts of American academic life, both in... Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Judith Barter
Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 320 pp.; 100 color ills.; 200 b/w ills. $65.00 (0810940892)
Art Institute of Chicago, October 10, 1998–January 10, 1999; Museum of Fine Art, Boston, February 14–May 9, 1999; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., June 6–September 6, 1999
Not surprisingly, the public flocked to see the well-conceived Mary Cassatt exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, standing in line to buy calendars, posters, refrigerator magnets, and coffee cups adorned with her beloved images. Yet the exhibition curator, Judith Barter, intentionally downplayed the sentimental side of Cassatt, opting instead to show her evolution as a "modern" artist. Ninety key works, including paintings, pastels, drawings, and prints, highlighted Cassatt's progress... Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Bodo Brinkmann
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 1997. 441 pp.; 63 color ills.; 367 b/w ills. Cloth €85.00 (2503505651)
The subject of this monograph is the Netherlandish book illuminator whom Friedrich Winkler named the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook in 1914 after a Book of Hours—not a Prayerbook—in the State Library of Saxony (ms. A.311). Although some thirty ascriptions to the artist have been made in the eighty years since Winkler's pioneering essay, Brinkmann is the first scholar carefully and systematically to examine the painter's entire output. Brinkmann has enlarged that output to fifty-two... Full Review
December 8, 1998
Lynn F. Jacobs
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 352 pp.; 91 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521474833)
If quizzed to name two sculptors of early Netherlandish wooden altarpieces, many of my colleagues and I would not pass or would do so only with considerable searching the depths of our memories. Even if we relaxed the rules and permitted the use of the standard introductions to Netherlandish art by Charles Cuttler (1968), James Snyder (1985), or Craig Harbison (1995), these yield just four examples, two of which are given as by anonymous artists. Jacques de Baerze is known primarily because... Full Review
December 6, 1998
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Penny Howell Jolly
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. 155 pp.; 12 color ills.; 34 b/w ills. $45.00 (0520205376)
For decades the rich, dense heritage of medieval and Renaissance Venice has offered historians, art historians, and social scientists an array of subjects and an evolving methodological arsenal for their analysis. Building on the work of previous generations, recent scholars have expanded our understanding of the manner in which a society can use its visual culture to construct a variety of identities: civic, religious, class, familial, and even individual, conveying messages that were... Full Review
December 1, 1998
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Beth Archer Brombert
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 506 pp.; 68 b/w ills. Paper $19.95 (0226075443)
It was Édouard Manet's notoriety that caught the attention of the young writer Émile Zola in 1866 and galvanized him to write the first sustained polemic about his work. A fascination with the controversies surrounding the reception of Manet's paintings has inspired an entire strain of writing on the artist ever since. Although some of that journalistic skirmishing animates Beth Brombert's biography, this new account of his life does not dwell on Manet's public persona. Objecting to the... Full Review
November 20, 1998
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Karl Galinsky
Princeton University Press, 1998. 474 pp.; 11 color ills.; 164 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (0691058903)
One can only admire Karl Galinsky's courage and self-confidence in attempting a one-volume synoptic study of what is perhaps the single subject that has exerted most dominance within Roman studies for over a century (and particularly in recent years). In the 1990s, in the relatively narrow field of Augustan art alone (narrow by the very broad standards of Augustan Culture, where "art and architecture" receive one chapter out of eight), in the English language alone, we have seen at... Full Review
October 26, 1998
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Joaneath Spicer, ed.
New Haven: Yale University Press in association with The Walters Art Museum and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1997. 480 pp.; 90 color ills.; 206 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0884010937)
The study of Dutch art presents a particular challenge: How best to organize the material? The extraordinary rate of pictorial production, at a high level of craft, in the northern Netherlands in the seventeenth century, the profusion of first- and second-rank masters, the expansion of the genres, and the existence of specialized local markets conspire to make the task of encompassing discussion difficult. This is true enough for a survey book, but takes on even greater importance in the... Full Review
October 26, 1998
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Ernst van de Wetering
Exh. cat. Amsterdam University Press, 1997. 340 pp.; 201 color ills.; 134 b/w ills. Cloth €72.50 (0520226682)
Albert Blankert, ed.
Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1997. 462 pp. Cloth $59.00 (9040099812)
For a snapshot of the dominant directions of current Rembrandt research, particularly under the leadership of senior Dutch scholars, two recent publications provide a sensitive vision. Their very titles signal the degree of adulation accorded to the painter Rembrandt, a solitary "genius," whose wide-ranging influence, or "impact" diffused outward to a circle of talented but lesser painters who followed in his wake. Emphasis is on distinctive, individual artistic production in both books,... Full Review
October 1, 1998
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Anne van Buren, James Marrow, and Silvana Pettenati
Lucerne: Commentary Lucerne, 1996. 703 pp.; 8 color ills.; 163 b/w ills.
The appearance of a facsimile volume (costing around six thousand dollars) of the celebrated, partially destroyed "Turin-Milan Hours" (Turin, Museo Civico d'Arte Antico, inv. no. 47) is reason enough to rejoice for scholars, who would otherwise probably never have close contact with these celebrated miniatures, some of which (controversially) have been attributed to Jan van Eyck. Now there is still more reason for celebration: the accompanying commentary volume has appeared in three languages... Full Review
October 1, 1998