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

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Catherine Gordon
Witt Library, Cortauld Institute of Art, 1998. 570 ills. CD-ROM $68.00
This CD-ROM opens with a visual witticism too canny not to have been intentional. When the disk is installed (easily done), the first screen reproduces part of Pieter Bruegel's Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, one of the real treasures of the Courtauld's collection. In the detail, taken from the painting's right-hand side, the user encounters a micro-crowd of onlookers, who bend forward, all eyes, all focus, all attention. These figures gaze toward a point at the screen's lower... Full Review
December 29, 1999
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Alexandra R. Murphy
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 192 pp.; 65 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300079257)
Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam, June 20-September 6, 1999; Frick Art Museum, Pittsburgh, February 10-mid-April, 2000.
The American public has not given works by Barbizon artists star billing in a little over a century. Where once Americans were proud of themselves for having recognized Millet's talents early, they are now harder to please. Since Impressionist art has risen to blockbuster fame, it takes a monumental effort to call attention to the considerable but subtle charm of what Millet referred to as "rustic art." The subtitle of this exhibition, "Drawn into the Light," implies that Millet could... Full Review
December 29, 1999
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Julien Chapuis
Yale University Press, 1999. 352 pp.; 150 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300081626)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., October 3, 1999-January 9, 2000; Metropolitan Museum of Art, February 10-May 14, 2000.
Most Americans will know about Tilman Riemenschneider from the wonderful 1980 publication, Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany, by Michael Baxandall, one of the rare discussions of German wood sculpture in English, or perhaps from the scattered fragments of the artist's works in American museums, such as Cleveland or Raleigh (an essay by William Wixom in the present catalogue chronicles "Riemenschneider in America" and offers a useful checklist). Now viewers have the opportunity... Full Review
December 28, 1999
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Mary Newcome
Turin: Artema, 1998. 257 pp.; 34 color ills.; 320 b/w ills. Cloth (8880520083)
Most art historians seem to consider Genoa a quiet, provincial backwater that has little to offer to an inquisitive mind. One reason for this misconception may be that the Genoese purportedly guard their privacy and are said to keep their artistic treasures to themselves rather than sharing them with a wider public. However, as any visitor to this city can attest, there is more than just a glimpse to catch of the rich trove of artworks, many of which are readily accessible in churches,... Full Review
December 21, 1999
Otto Karl Werckmeister
University of Chicago Press, 1999. 188 pp.; 5 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0226893553)
The prevailing tone of Icons of the Left: Benjamin and Eisenstein, Picasso and Kafka After the Fall of Communism is exasperation. "The predicament of leftist intellectuals working in capitalist society, like myself," says Otto Karl Werckmeister, "has been that their principled critique of capitalism has nearly always been advanced in a hypothetical mode" (p. 5). Arguing for a solution to this problem, which--consistent with his Marxism--he believes to have been caused by the separation... Full Review
December 1, 1999
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Ethan Matt Kavaler
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 403 pp.; 139 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521622670)
With A. E. Popham's publication in 1932 of Abraham Ortelius's epitaph on Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the traditional figure of Droll Bruegel, of Peasant Bruegel, was soon replaced by Bruegel the peintre philosophe, as Charles de Tolnay characterized him in his monograph of 1935. It is thus understandable that scholars have sought to locate Bruegel's "audience" among the intellectual circles of Antwerp, especially Ortelius and his colleagues, the classical scholars around Christophe... Full Review
November 29, 1999
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Judson J. Emerick
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. 446 pp.; 208 b/w ills. Cloth $105.00 (0271017287)
In his long-awaited monograph on the Tempietto del Clitunno, Judson Emerick seeks to dispel the myths surrounding this enigmatic building. The fifteenth- and sixteenth-century humanists who discovered the building saw it as a Roman temple converted to Christian purpose. Thus, Leon Battista Alberti observed, "I myself have seen in Umbria a small ancient temple..." (book 1, chapter 8). Modern scholars however, have concluded that the structure was built in the medieval period, principally... Full Review
November 29, 1999
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Daniel Weiss
Cambridge University Press, 1998. 279 pp.; 8 color ills.; 96 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0521621305)
The reverberations of Saint Louis's oath to embark on his first crusade to the Holy Land were acutely felt throughout the royal domain. In examining this period, Daniel Weiss draws a connection between the iconographic program of the Ste-Chapelle in Paris (1244–48) and the Old Testament manuscript produced in Acre shortly after 1250, now in the Bibliothèque d'Arsenal in Paris (MS 5211) (8). This bold confederacy of monuments is based on the common themes of sacred kingship, holy war, wisdom,... Full Review
November 29, 1999
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Robert Jones
Cambridge University Press, 1998. 279 pp.; 5 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (0521593263)
In eighteenth-century Britain, expanding mercantile enterprise, supported through rapid colonial expansion, yielded broad cultural expectations concerning access not only to wealth, but also to the status traditionally accorded to the aristocratic elite. A burgeoning material economy confused the visual economy producing status. Customary signs of wealth and standing were devalued, awash in a flood of luxury goods. Simultaneously, these very markers, desired for their power to project an... Full Review
November 15, 1999
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Claire Perry
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 256 pp.; 60 color ills.; 154 b/w ills. Paper $25.00 (0195109376)
Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, Stanford, California, April 21–June 27, 1999; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California, October 30, 1999–January 9, 2000; Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, Nebraska, February 19–April 30, 2000
As suggested by the title Pacific Arcadia: Images of California, 1600-1915, this exhibition and the book that accompanies it study the changing and inducible imagery of the "California Dream" as presented by Claire Perry, curator of American art at Stanford's Cantor Center for Visual Arts. Perry traces how, over a period of centuries, a variety of pictorial imagery was used to market California as the golden land of opportunity. Perry's text, based on her doctoral dissertation, not... Full Review
November 15, 1999
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