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

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Walter S. Gibson
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 291 pp.; 16 color ills.; 124 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0520216989)
In his new book, Pleasant Places: The Rustic Landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael, Walter Gibson takes the reader on an extensive wandeling that explores the diverse pleasures the seventeenth-century Dutch took in from images of their own familiar countryside. The book spans from the sixteenth-century "origins" of the "rustic" landscape in Antwerp to late seventeenth-century discussions of the picturesque, but developments associated with Haarlem are central. In the words... Full Review
March 21, 2001
Peg Zeglin Brand, ed.
Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2000. 329 pp.; 52 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0253337267)
A cold, wintry, and grey afternoon in London might not be the best environment to begin thinking about whether and how beauty matters, or about what are the matters that form our definitions of Beauty. However, the eerie bleakness of the weather around me coincided with the need initially to consider one form of reaction to beauty: namely, our differing responses and reactions to nature. This question was considered in Marcia M. Eaton's discussion of "Kantian and Contextual Beauty." When she... Full Review
March 17, 2001
Sarah Quill
Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. 206 pp.; 210 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth (1840146974)
One of the most beautiful books to appear in recent years, this visual feast that is Ruskin's Venice: The Stones Revisited pairs quotations from the three volumes of John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice (New York: Lovell, 1851-53) with Sarah Quill's dazzling photographs of the monuments that Ruskin observed. Every detail is appealing, from the dust jacket—a deftly chosen detail of the marble encrustation on the Ca' Dario that Ruskin would surely have favored—to the marble intarsia... Full Review
March 17, 2001
James Ayres
Yale University Press, 1998. 280 pp.; 42 color ills.; 302 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0300075480)
Elizabeth McKellar
Manchester University Press in association with Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. 263 pp.; 59 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (0719040760)
Two recent works significantly extend our understanding of the architectural history of London and English provincial towns and cities. Elizabeth McKellar's masterful study of the economic and statutory forces that shaped the appearance of London's domestic buildings offers the first major reconsideration of the metropolis since the publication of Sir John Summerson's 1945 Georgian London. James Ayres's overview of the technological innovations and craft traditions that enabled the... Full Review
March 17, 2001
Patricia Mathews
University of Chicago Press, 2000. 316 pp.; 13 color ills.; 92 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0226510182)
The Symbolist aesthetic in late nineteenth-century Europe demonstrates a particularly idiosyncratic complexity due to its interweaving of cultural, political, social, scientific, and aesthetic influences. Tracking these individual strands in the art and literature at the fin-de-siècle reveals a strong reaction against Enlightenment ideals of progress and rationalism that was often expressed in visual and verbal images of superstition and mysticism. During this period, subjective... Full Review
March 16, 2001
Sabine Eiche, ed.
Urbino: Accademia Raffaello, 1999. 145 pp.; 11 b/w ills. Cloth $27.50 (8887573034)
Recent scholarship has produced a mounting bibliography in the area of court studies, helping to convince most scholars that, however important the great republics, the courts must be included in any complete evaluation of cultural history in the Renaissance. Yet the precise nature of the Italian Renaissance court remains hard to define, with many fundamental questions still inadequately answered. How institutionalized was the court? Who, exactly, were its members? Did they have specific... Full Review
March 16, 2001
Sarah R. Cohen
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 352 pp.; 8 color ills.; 166 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521640466)
In her study of the "artful body" and aristocratic identity in the visual arts from Louis XIV to the Regency, Sarah Cohen investigates the role played by personal artifice and dance in the performance of status, power, and social interaction. Drawing on a wealth of historical, visual, and documentary material, an intimate familiarity with dance and art history, and methodologies on performance and identity in African and contemporary art, Cohen explores the significance and meaning of outward... Full Review
March 16, 2001
Peter B. Nesbett and Michelle DuBois, eds.
University of Washington Press 257 pp. $125.00 (0295979631)
Although he spent nearly all of his professional life in the public eye, Jacob Lawrence has remained an elusive figure. A child of the Harlem Renaissance, Lawrence was born too late to be more than a perceptive eyewitness to that movement. A figurative artist whose small-scale paintings were driven by historical narratives, the artist reached maturity in an era that preferred grand, mute abstractions. Socially engaged but reticent to protest, a critical darling well removed from the centrism... Full Review
March 11, 2001
Eckart Marchand and Alison Wright, eds.
Ashgate, 1998. 187 pp.; 52 b/w ills. Cloth $84.95 (185928423X)
A bound volume of diverse studies does not necessarily constitute a book derived from a coherent idea. This thought arises when reading With and Without the Medici: Studies in Tuscan Art and Patronage 1434-1530. Even though the editors, Eckart Marchand and Alison Wright, introduce the publication with an intellectual framework, they fail to unify the articles within that framework. The alleged theme of the book is art patronage in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Tuscany, dominated by... Full Review
February 25, 2001
Julie Ann Plax
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 272 pp.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (052164268X)
Julie Anne Plax's Watteau and the Cultural Politics of Eighteenth-Century France belongs to what we might call the "third wave" of writing on Watteau that has transpired during the two centuries following the artist's own. The first, nineteenth-century manifestation of Watteau writing presented the paintings as dreamy, imaginative poems and the artist himself as a melancholy visionary. Early in the following century began a second, more objectivist trend that sought to codify and... Full Review
February 22, 2001