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

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Linda Merrill
New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Smithsonian Institution, 1998. 408 pp.; 105 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300076118)
In 1875, Frederick R. Leyland, a prosperous Liverpool businessman and patron of the arts, invited two artists to design schemes for the interior of his new London house at 49 Prince's Gate. He asked his friend the painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler to decorate the entrance hall and charged a designer of metalwork and japoniste interiors, Thomas Jekyll, to redesign the dining room to hold his large collection of Chinese blue-and-white Kangxi porcelain, as well as Whistler's painting La... Full Review
March 16, 1999
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Linda Rugg
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 293 pp.; 45 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (0226731472)
In recent decades, some of the most influential books about photography have been written by authors outside of art history and American studies, the areas that have fostered photographic studies at universities since World War II. Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida and Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment increased interest in the social ramifications of photographic practice, and reoriented many scholars from strictly archival pursuits to the contemplation of photography's... Full Review
March 16, 1999
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Jaś Elsner
New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 320 pp.; 68 color ills.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $16.95 (0192842013)
In his influential Prolegomena to the Study of Roman Art, first published in 1953, Otto Brendel gave a masterful survey of prior accountings of the subject. He noted how Roman art has been the creation of the many presents from Ghiberti's notion that Roman art ended in the reign of Constantine through Winckelmann's privileging of ancient Greece to the detriment of Rome, to the early 20th-century nationalism/racism and formalism/structuralism of Strzygowski and Kaschnitz-Weinberg,... Full Review
March 16, 1999
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Fredrika H. Jacobs
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. 229 pp.; 32 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0521572703)
How is the critical language of art different for the women artists of sixteenth-century Italy than for the men? In a history of art dominated by male artists, how did writers from 1550 to 1800 differentiate the female capacity for creativity from that of males? In particular, what did it mean to be called a virtuosa, a term reserved for few women artists during the cinquecento? The author addresses these and other important questions in this provocative and illuminating... Full Review
March 16, 1999
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Ding Ning
Beijing: Shenghuo Dushu Xinzhi Sanlian Shudian, 1997. 368 pp.; 23 b/w ills. $19.80
Mianyan zhi wei: zouxiang yishushi zhexue (Dimensions of Duration: Toward a Philosophy of Art History) is the first comprehensive introduction of the methodology of Western art history to a Chinese audience. Ding Ning, professor of art history at the National Academy of Art in Hangzhou, has focused on the revisionary writings on the theory and practice of art history that were published for the most part between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s in the Anglo-American world. The... Full Review
March 15, 1999
C. Jean Campbell
Princeton University Press, 1998. 294 pp.; 51 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0691012105)
All visitors to San Gimignano remember the vividly colored and enigmatic fresco decoration of a small tower room in the Palazzo Comunale, now a museum. A series of narratives in reds, pinks, and greens decorate the walls, notable both for the fancy dress of the characters and for their occasional lack of dress in what appear to be compromising situations: in bed, in the bath, and in various monetary transactions. Jean Campbell's study recalls much of the wonder and pleasure that accompanies a... Full Review
March 15, 1999
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Robert E. Hegel
Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998. 512 pp.; 67 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0804730024)
Craig Clunas
Princeton University Press, 1997. 221 pp.; 16 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $39.50 (1861890087)
Both of these books deal extensively with printed and painted pictures made during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), commonly designated as part of the late imperial era. Clunas and others, however, refer to the years 1500-1800 as China's early modern period, in part to challenge Eurocentric definitions of modernization and modernity, but also to recognize global connections linking the economy of China with the economies of Europe, the Americas, and other parts of the world at this time.... Full Review
March 15, 1999
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Benoy K. Behl
New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 256 pp.; 186 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0810919834)
When I first opened this book, the spine broke, a premonition of things to come. But let me start with the book's strengths, for certainly there are some. Benoy Behl is a photographer who enjoys the challenge of working in low-light conditions such as those of the rock-cut shrines that form the Buddhist monastery of Ajanta. His photographs bring out the extraordinary richness of Ajanta's paintings and capture details that I have failed to see or to see in the lush fashion that his... Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Ilay Cooper and Barry Dawson
New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998. 192 pp.; 92 color ills.; 128 b/w ills. Cloth (0500341613)
Ilay Cooper's text is sumptuously illustrated with photographs mostly by Barry Dawson. His focus on traditional buildings is apparently based on anthropologist Milton Singer's long-accepted but now challenged notion that Indian culture could be divided into two dichotomous strands, the great tradition and the little tradition. Indeed, Cooper's definition of traditional architecture "as architecture without architects," by which he means architecture built by local and often skilled... Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Lawrence Nees, ed.
Cambridge, Mass.: Medieval Academy of America, 1998. 257 pp.; 156 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (0915651092)
This volume gives an interesting sample, though not a survey, of current scholarship on the art of early medieval Europe. Its editor, Lawrence Nees, has given it shape and balance that clearly reflect his own approach to the material. Nees has long been constructing bridges over the divide between Western "medieval" and "Byzantine" art, an enterprise indebted to the example of Ernst Kitzinger, to whom this book is dedicated. Geographical boundaries are facts of American academic life, both in... Full Review
January 28, 1999
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