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

Browse Recent Reviews

The study of ukiyo-e, pictures of Edo Japan's "floating world" of pleasure and popular entertainment, has a long and very robust history in Europe and the United States owing to the enthusiastic formation of great print collections that began in the late nineteenth century. The continued passionate involvement of collectors has made ukiyo-e studies a stronghold of print connoisseurship and narrow factual research. Within the academic community, developing a tradition of broader contextual interpretation has taken longer, but the process has accelerated over the last two decades. Professor Screech's study of erotic images and sexuality in the Edo period adds… Full Review
February 4, 2000
Thumbnail
Melissa Dabakis
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 312 pp.; 312 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521461472)
This solidly researched book examines a diverse array of outdoor monuments, small sculptures, and other images that represent themes of U.S. labor between the 1880s and the mid-1930s. Author Melissa Dabakis concludes that the objects in this broadly defined group, ranging from Albert Weinert's sixteen-foot Haymarket Monument near Chicago to Saul Baizerman's five-inch Cement Man, constitute a significant U.S. visual art tradition on the subject of work that predates New Deal-era fanfares to American labor. The book focuses on the role they played in contemporary discourses about the work ethic, masculinity, immigration, and collective memory. While the… Full Review
February 2, 2000
Thumbnail
Richard E. Spear
Yale University Press, 1998. $60.00 (0300070357)
Richard Spear's much-anticipated book on Guido Reni promises a new approach that would seriously treat this important artist's achievement conceptually and historically--in contrast to previous studies, which Spear contends are too narrowly focused on chronology and style. In this effort, Spear calls on insights from post-Foucauldian social history, feminism, and psychology in order to explain the artist's personality and its relation to societal norms. While Spear bravely admits that his own endeavor may fail and only contribute more to an understanding of the painter's life than his art, he is wrong. Indeed, though it is marked by unevenness and some… Full Review
February 1, 2000
Thumbnail
Maurie D. McInnis
Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. 350 pp.; 90 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (1570033145)
Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, April 9-July 3, 1999.
In a painting by John Singleton Copley, rendered in Rome in 1775, Ralph and Alice Izard of Charleston, South Carolina, sit in the imaginary setting of a veranda that offers a perfect view of the Colosseum. Numerous objects frame this vista even as they compete with it for attention; such standard fare of Grand Manner portraits as a column and drapery augment particular items like a Greek krater, a contemporary Roman table, and a cast of an ancient Roman figure group. This double portrait graces the dust jacket of In Pursuit of Refinement: Charlestonians Abroad 1740–1860, the beautifully produced… Full Review
January 26, 2000
Thumbnail
Catherine Soussloff, ed.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 239 pp.; 36 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0520213033)
The goal of this volume, as Catherine Soussloff indicates in her introduction, is to introduce the subject of Jewish identity to art history and to explore its complexites. Compared to The Jew in the Text (London: Thames and Hudson, 1995), edited by Linda Nochlin and Tamar Garb, which examines Jewish identity through depictions of Jews in art and literature, this anthology has a greater scope, although fewer essays. The contributions cover issues ranging from the concept of Jewish art, aniconism, and anti-Semitism to the importance of Jewish identity to numerous artists, collectors, and art historians. While there are several themes… Full Review
January 26, 2000
Thumbnail
Marcia Hall
New York and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 349 pp.; 16 color ills.; 188 b/w ills. Paper $18.95 (0521482453)
This important survey of sixteenth-century Italian painting following Raphael's death in 1520 treats one of the most popular and stimulating periods for recent art historical enquiry. Authoritative and provocative, the author shows a close awareness of previous art historical scholarship and incorporates the latest research into a text covering art from the Sistine Chapel ceiling to the Farnese Gallery. This type of survey of Italian painting, while remaining consistently popular in Italy, is particularly needed for an English readership as nothing has been attempted on this scale for the Renaissance since the 1960s. The book originated in the… Full Review
January 24, 2000
Thumbnail
Sándor Radnóti
Trans Ervin Dunaie Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999. 255 pp. Paper $18.95 (084769206X)
In this fine work, Hungarian art-philosopher Sándor Radnóti uses the concept of forgery to explore important issues in art theory. It is an insightful strategy. Like the image of the Japanese novelty game in the recollection scene of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, the topic of forgery unfolds to reveal an entire landscape of aesthetics. In the game, tightly wrapped paper placed in a water-filled bowl opens up to display a flower or a town; so, too, the topic of forgery opens up discussions of authenticity, originality, value, and even the current status of the art world itself. … Full Review
January 20, 2000
R. Ward Bissell
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. 688 pp.; 27 color ills.; 257 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0271017872)
Without question, among scholars of Italian Baroque art, no one was better positioned to write the "definitive" monograph on Artemisia Gentileschi than R. Ward Bissell, the author of the fundamental archival study of the artist, "Artemisia Gentileschi: A New Documented Chronology," Art Bulletin 50, 1968,153-68, and of the only monographic study of her painter-father, Orazio Gentileschi and the Poetic Tradition in Caravaggesque Painting (University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981). And, by any measure, the book under review is that "definitive" monograph, an impressive study comprising a broad, principally chronological exploration of Artemisia's career in a terse… Full Review
January 19, 2000
Thumbnail
Aby Warburg
Trans David Britt Getty Trust Publications, 1999. 859 pp.; 232 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0892365374)
To tell the story of Aby Warburg is a daunting task, even if one just tries to restrict oneself to the essays, lecture notes, aperçus, and secondhand testimonials collected in the weighty Aby Warburg: The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity. Yet even this unwieldy tome does not represent the full and wondrous scope of Warburg's thought, since it is a 1999 translation of the original 1932 edition, with the essays thematically grouped and edited by Gertrud Bing. Indeed, Bing had planned to edit the complete works, but time and circumstance curtailed the project. Notably absent in this new Getty edition… Full Review
January 18, 2000
Neil Harris
Yale University Press, 1998. 208 pp.; 180 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (0300070454)
Neil Harris's Building Lives is an informative and informed introduction to the rites and rituals surrounding the design, construction, and life cycle of buildings. Harris's book amplifies earlier research for a series of lectures commissioned by the Buell Center for the History of American Architecture at Columbia University. In published form, those lectures have been recast as three chapters focused sequentially on the birth, life, and death of buildings. The purpose of those chapters, stated in the closing pages, is to apply "a life cycle metaphor to buildings," to identify associated rituals, to "understand objects by attributes that do not… Full Review
January 13, 2000
Thumbnail