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

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
Dorinda Evans
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. 177 pp.; 16 color ills.; 103 b/w ills. Cloth $39.50 (0691059454)
Of all the major American painters to take up the brush during the late colonial and early federal periods, Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828) has been the most overlooked by contemporary art historians. Although as a painter, he was far more virtuosic than Copley, Peale, or West, the almost exclusive application of his talent to portraits has not beckoned the scholar. Not that Stuart was by any means alone in his focus on portraiture. But unlike Copley, who at least agonized over the constriction of his ambitions, Stuart, judging from the written and visual evidence, appears to have blithely churned out likenesses… Full Review
July 22, 1999
T. J. Clark
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 458 pp.; 92 color ills.; 160 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300075324)
T. J. Clark's latest reflections on the complex topic of Modernism in the visual arts have been much anticipated. When he writes about a "retrospective" exhibition held by Pissarro late in his career, his words also apply to the appearance of this new book: "Pissarro knew only too well in 1892 that whatever he did in the present would be looked at comparatively, and put to the test of the 1870s" (56). The many self-reflexive comments that we find in these pages suggest that Clark, too, is aware that he must live up to his reputation as one of the… Full Review
July 14, 1999
Joanna Cannon and Andre Vauchez
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. 275 pp.; 26 color ills.; 204 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0271017562)
The visual—whether extant or recorded, whether a work of art, a procession, or the body of a saint—is an essential primary source for the historian. In this study . . . we hope to have demonstrated the contribution such sources can make to an understanding of the Middle Ages. (8) In this meticulous and carefully researched book, over twenty years in the making, the team of an art historian and specialist in trecento Cortona, Joanna Cannon, and a historian known for his wide-ranging and seminal work on the canonization of saints, Andre Vauchez, work together to… Full Review
July 12, 1999
Maryan W. Ainsworth
New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 360 pp.; 69 color ills.; 274 b/w ills. Cloth $34.95 (0810965232)
This most recent study of the painting technique of Gerard David is an admirable one with a considerable amount of new information on David's style, particularly as revealed by author Maryan W. Ainsworth's scientific investigations with infrared reflectography. As noted in Chapter One, "Designing Solutions: David's Drawings and Workshop Practice," no other painter working in fifteenth-century Bruges has left for posterity as many drawings as did Gerard David, native of the north Netherlandish town of Oudewater (born ca. 1455) and active in Bruges from 1484 to his death in 1523. The "Klinkosch sketchbook" and several other sheets give… Full Review
July 12, 1999
Cristelle L. Baskins
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 264 pp.; 59 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521583934)
Cristelle Baskins has emerged as a leading scholar in the field of Italian Renaissance domestic art. She has authored a series of fascinating articles over the past decade that deal with the varied issues implicit in the function and appearance of cassone (marriage chest) and spalliera (wainscoting) panels. These articles have helped both to stimulate the field and to lead it in new and exciting directions, negating some of its earlier, marginalized, status in relation to more traditional studies of monumental Renaissance art. With this new book, Baskins expands on many of the issues examined in her previous articles; it… Full Review
Philip Jacks, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 320 pp.; 12 color ills.; 109 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0521580889)
This collection consists of fourteen papers presented at an international conference held in conjunction with an exhibit of drawings by Vasari and related artists at the Yale University Art Gallery in 1994. A companion catalogue by Maia Gahtan and Philip Jacks, bearing the same title as this volume (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994) describes the role of disegno in Vasari's artistic production. Conference acts (often generated by exhibitions) have become a convenient way of circulating new ideas beyond the circle of scholars who attend the proceedings. This admirable goal, however, is frequently sabotaged by a long gestation period during… Full Review
July 7, 1999
Carol Armstrong
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998. 511 pp.; 143 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0262011697)
Photographically illustrated books produced in nineteenth-century Britain are the objects of study of this ambitious volume, one part historical reflection and one part theoretical manifesto. The volumes examined here include the first widely produced book of photographs, William Henry Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature, as well as early publishing ventures in which photographs appeared, including Carpenter and Nasmyth's The Moon and Oskar Rejlander's photographs in Charles Darwin's Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. In addition, separate chapters are devoted to Anna Atkins's volume, Photographs of British Algae, Francis Frith's Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Observed as well… Full Review
July 6, 1999