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

Reviews in are published continuously by CAA and Taylor & Francis, with the most recently published reviews listed below. Browse reviews based on geographic region, period or cultural sphere, or specialty (from 1998 to the present) using Review Categories in the sidebar or by entering terms in the search bar above.

Recently Published Reviews

John T. Young
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. 136 pp.; 85 color ills. Paper $24.95 (0295977086)
This book is a collection of photographs of public art with associated notes from comments by the sculptors and others, together with the author's observations on a journey made in 1995. The photographs, whilst usually good, are by no means as complete records as the text intends, for example there being major details missing from the Monument to the Heroes of the People, 1959, and major works omitted, such as The Rent Collection Courtyard, 1965, even if these may not in 1995 have been open to the author. Nor does the author notice that some artists are from Taiwan, such… Full Review
September 8, 1999
Akbar Naqvi
New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 600 pp.; 345 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (0195778030)
Indo-Pakistani art of the twentieth century falls into two time periods, pre- and post-Partition (1947). As a distinctive national and cultural form of aesthetic expression, however, art in this area is only as old as the young nation that celebrated its fiftieth anniversary of independence in 1997. The significance of Akbar Naqvi's book, Image and Identity, therefore, is that it is the first scholarly investigation of the history and development of modern and contemporary art of the subcontinent to explore in almost inexhaustible detail one part of it: Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. Pakistan is a small country situated at… Full Review
September 8, 1999
Paul Zanker
Trans Deborah Lucas Schneider Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998. 251 pp.; 11 color ills.; 113 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0674689666)
A study of any locale rich in buildings and paintings that places buildings in their urban setting and interprets paintings in their architectural settings is always welcome. Pompeii is an obvious place to present in this way, but studies of that intriguing city have seldom risen to the challenge. The task is even harder now since archeological activity there has intensified over the last decade. The first (Italian) edition of this book, which appeared in 1993, was based on three essays, the first one published in 1979. The tensions between older interpretations and newer material are evident throughout the book… Full Review
September 8, 1999
Barbara C. Raw
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 221 pp.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $64.95 (0521553717)
In Trinity and Incarnation in Anglo-Saxon Art and Thought, Barbara Raw continues to apply the methodology she also utilized in Anglo-Saxon Crucifixion Iconography and the Art of the Monastic Revival (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), considering pictorial imagery as an expression of ideas developed in contemporary texts. Here the homilies of Ælfric of Eynsham, along with their antecedents, particularly the exegetical writings of Augustine and Bede and the Apostolic and Athanasian Creeds, serve as a springboard for Raw's interpretation of later Anglo-Saxon manuscript images of the persons of the Trinity, both individually and in groups. Central to her argument… Full Review
September 3, 1999
Beth Fowkes Tobin
Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998. 320 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $54.95 (0822323052)
Some of the most provocative and insightful scholarship on eighteenth-century British art produced in the last fifteen years has explored the vexed relationship between art and commerce. This important body of work is limited, however, by its "domestic" vision of what that commerce actually entails: it tends to focus on art produced in Britain, commercial discourse produced by British ideologues, and the British merchant as a domestic figure. Beth Fowkes Tobin's Picturing Imperial Power: Colonial Subjects in Eighteenth-Century Painting is a welcome addition to this scholarship. As its title suggests, it expands the field of inquiry by posing new questions… Full Review
September 3, 1999
André Vauchez
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 645 pp.; 43 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (0521445590)
Sainthood in the Middle Ages first appeared in 1981. It is a measure of the impact and continuing value of his study to historians of late medieval Europe that André Vauchez's book has been translated into English some sixteen years later. Vauchez has provided a highly differentiated account of changing perceptions of sainthood between 1185 and 1431, in which he distinguishes those who initiated, witnessed, and managed the processes by which public cults were authorized for a tiny number of recent saints. He unfolds the shifting success and failure of a variety of ecclesiastical and social groups to generate prestige… Full Review
September 3, 1999
Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis
Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999. 240 pp.; 20 color ills.; 104 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (0824820819)
This book is a carefully constructed, well-researched study of Japanese mandala paintings. Within the broader context of pan-Asian Buddhism the most famous mandalas are those associated with Esoteric or Tantric Buddhist theology. Another important and influential type of mandala, the Taima mandala, was created to represent Buddhist doctrine of the Pure Land sect. The appearance of Japanese Esoteric and Pure Land mandalas is unquestionably derived from Chinese prototypes, but this study reveals the remarkable creativity of Japanese religious leaders and their artists as they transformed these continental models into recognizably Japanese images. This assimilation culminated with the creation of mandalas… Full Review
September 3, 1999
Richard Cleary
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 300 pp.; 12 color ills.; 194 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0521572681)
When the Place Louis-le-Grand (today Place Vendôme) was inaugurated on August 13, 1699, many of the elegant facades that surrounded the square had no buildings behind them, and the king it was intended to glorify was not even there. The state of the square did not matter, in some sense, because its future shape was dictated by Mansart's revised blueprint for the site, and the absence of the king did not matter, in some sense, because the urban space was dominated by Girardon's equestrian statue of the sovereign. The Place… Full Review
August 26, 1999
Dianne Sachko Macleod
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 530 pp.; 8 color ills.; 74 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0521550904)
Andrew Hemingway and William Vaughan, eds.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 386 pp.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (052155182X)
These recent books from Cambridge take different approaches to a common topic. Both infuse new content into a category term: "bourgeois" or "middle-class" society, as it dominated the production of nineteenth-century art through private or state patronage, individual purchase, exhibitions, and the press. The fifteen essays collected and introduced by Andrew Hemingway and William Vaughan begin with Britain (five essays) but then turn to shorter sections on France (three essays), Germany (four essays) and the United States (three essays). The collection sketches a comparative picture of the status of the middle classes in each country and the varying forms of… Full Review
August 26, 1999
James Cracraft
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 409 pp.; 35 color ills.; 95 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0226116654)
Grigory Kaganov
Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997. 206 pp.; 76 b/w ills. Cloth $51.00 (0804727422)
In Western thought, space is preexisting and absolute. So asserts the philosophical tradition traced through Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Newton, and Kant. But as spatial theorist Henri Lefebvre points out, accounts of mental conceptual space in mathematics distanced themselves from those concerning the measurable physical space of geography. And neither mental nor physical space were treated by theorists in relation to the collective social space produced by human practices, viewed since the nineteenth century in political terms and in connection with the rise of capitalism. Two new works have joined the growing body of studies that attempt to bridge the gap… Full Review
August 26, 1999
James Ryan
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 272 pp.; 88 b/w ills. Cloth $47.50 (0226732339)
Christopher Pinney
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 249 pp.; 40 color ills.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0226668657)
Postcolonialist theory revisits and reframes European expectations of knowledge, authority, and visibility in representations of the colonial encounter. Photography played an important role in the formation of these expectations, one discussed in modern histories of the medium. While differing in their objectives and academic disciplines, James Ryan and Christopher Pinney both use postcolonial theory to rewrite narratives of Euro-American photographic history. Pinney's book, in particular, makes a compelling case for the questions the present poses for the study of photographs of the colonialist past. James Ryan's Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire is… Full Review
August 3, 1999
William H. Truettner and Roger Stein, eds.
Exh. cat. Yale University Press in association with National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1999. 272 pp.; 100 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. $45.00 (0300079389)
National Museum of American Art, April 2–August 22, 1999
Shortly before the Federal Security Administration photographer Jack Delano set out for New England in the early 1940s, the program director, Roy Stryker, provided him with a shooting script. Stryker encouraged Delano to "pour maple syrup" on his subjects and "mix [them] well with white clouds." If this script corrupted Delano's "photographic soul," Stryker did not give "a damn . . . with Hitler at our doorstep" (quoted, 137). One of Delano's photographs, Picknickers along Highway 12A Hanover, New Hampshire (1941), is included in the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Picturing Old New England at the National Museum of American… Full Review
August 2, 1999
Elizabeth Bartman
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 242 pp.; 194 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0521583942)
As a monograph on the portraits of Livia, the wife of the emperor Augustus, this book reflects current scholarly interests in Augustan art and in the representation of women in the Roman Empire. Although the literature on Augustan Rome is grounded in the political contexts of the monuments, the author is to be admired for casting a wider net than is typical in the scholarship on Roman portraiture, which tends to be technical in its relentless classification of portrait types and variants based, for the most part, on hairstyles (counting the locks across the forehead, etc.). Rather than merely arranging… Full Review
July 27, 1999
Julia M. White, Reiko Mochinaga Brandon, and Yoko Woodson
Exh. cat. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in association with Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1997. 270 pp.; 209 color ills.; 19 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0295977663)
In the last two decades, most scholarship on ukiyo-e has appeared in exhibition catalogues. Such thematic exhibitions as the Portland Museum of Art's 1993 The Floating World Revisitedand the Worcester Art Museum's 1996 The Women of the Pleasure Quarter have whet our appetite for insightful scholarship. But while our scholarly cravings lust after challenging interpretations and controversial opinions, they must also be tempered with the knowledge that exhibition catalogues cannot be all things to all people. Accordingly, the criteria on which one reviews such publications should include some consideration of the constituency for which they are intended… Full Review
July 23, 1999
Selma Al-Radi
New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 216 pp. Cloth (0197280234)
This monograph is a composite presentation by three different contributors, who describe the layout, physical structure, and painted and carved wall and ceiling decorations of a religious college (madrasa) built on the central plateau of Yemen in the sixteenth century. Included is a compendium of the inscriptions from which the pedigree of the building is derived. Insight into traditional Yemeni building practices is provided in the section dealing with the restoration work. The main author is Selma al-Radi—a prehistorian by formal training—but one who became captivated by this charming building, and who committed herself to a decade of struggles to… Full Review
July 22, 1999