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

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Jean C. Wilson
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997. 272 pp.; 79 ills. Cloth $65.00 (0271016531)
We have learned a great deal in recent years about the conditions under which images became commodities, to be dealt in, traded, even speculated in during the early modern period, from the researches of many scholars, including Michael Montias, Lorne Campbell, Dan Ewing, Lynn Jacobs, Hans van Miegrot, and Elizabeth Honig. Jean Wilson has made important contributions to this discussion with her studies of Bruges artists in the early sixteenth century. This book offers an overall synthesis of... Full Review
June 2, 1999
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W. J. T. Mitchell
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 322 pp.; 45 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0226532046)
Showing it to be wholly a creature of the enlightenment, W. J. T. Mitchell has connected what would appear to be all the implications offered by the image of the dinosaur. In this regard, The Last Dinosaur Book is continuous with his more narrowly art-historical work on the landscape as a cultural construction. While some might think that an image ubiquitous to the bedrooms of America's children would be worth at least one book by an American cultural theorist, Mitchell has been... Full Review
May 28, 1999
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John R. Clarke
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. 406 pp.; 16 color ills.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0520200241)
The very name of the collection containing many of the depictions of sex discussed in John Clarke's Looking at Lovemaking—the "secret room" (il gabinetto segreto ) in the Museo Nazionale, Naples—suggests the challenge this material presents to interpreters of Roman visual culture. In this beautifully illustrated study, Clarke sets out to consider these coyly closeted objects in context, in order to analyze a cultural construction of sexuality that is markedly different from that... Full Review
May 24, 1999
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Angelica Goodden
London: André Deutsch in association with Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1999. 384 pp.; 8 color ills.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0233990216)
Poststructuralist theory has taught us to distrust a language that purports to represent its subject transparently and innocently, for words do not just present a value-neutral world for our consideration and use. Rather, such words as "woman artist," for example, give us both the thing and its meaning. If we accept this theory as correct, all language is suspect, but some forms of writing, such as biography, are capable of more mischief than others. Although biography claims to be... Full Review
May 18, 1999
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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Trans. John Frederick Nims. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 185 pp.; 2 b/w ills. Cloth $25.00 (0226080331)
Call this a time when translations of Michelangelo's notoriously difficult poetry have entered into their own in English, and be grateful for the heroic labors of so many first-rate translators. John Frederick Nims's fine new rendition of Michelangelo's complete poems is the fifth major one to appear since 1960. In that year Joseph Tusiani offered the first rendition of the entire corpus in appropriately elevated, energetic, often enigmatic verse. Three years later Creighton Gilbert... Full Review
May 17, 1999
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Bennard Perlman
Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. 469 pp. Cloth $35.50 (079143835X)
In 1983, Bennard B. Perlman met, by chance, one of the grandchildren of Arthur B. Davies. As a result of this meeting, Perlman was given access to the Davies family archives, a rich collection of records and remembrances about an artist who, in his lifetime, tried his best to conceal the details of his complicated and somewhat sordid existence. It is not every artist who marries a woman who murdered her first husband, and then goes on to live a double life—one with his wife and two sons and... Full Review
May 17, 1999
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Caroline A. Jones
Ed. Peter Galison. New York: Routledge, 1997. 528 pp.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (0415919126)
Although drawn from such disparate fields as art history, anthropology, philosophy, and the history of science and technology, the nineteen essays of this collection revolve around a central theme: how art and science have distinguished themselves—in practice and product—from one another, or how each has been shaped through its perceived relation to the other. Construed in one fashion, the question of how art and science are related has been of rather longstanding concern. In recent... Full Review
May 17, 1999
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Gene Brucker
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Paper $29.95 (0520215222)
The scene that adorns the cover of this book, a detail from Giovanni Maria Butteri's late sixteenth-century painting The Return from the Palio, is recognizable to anyone who has experienced Florentines when they have stepped outside to be at home in their city. It resembles the hour of the passeggiata, the last marketing moment of the day, or the assemblage of diverse citizens for a festival. The scene is a street of which two sides are lined by palazzi that form a kind... Full Review
May 17, 1999
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Paula Rea Radisich
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 207 pp.; 69 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0521593514)
One of the salient features of eighteenth-century art that has historically inhibited its incorporation into the canonical curriculum of art history is its resistance to stylistic categorization and the lack of a period designation such as Renaissance, Baroque, or Modern. And even within the field of eighteenth-century visual culture, some artists are more "canonical" than others because they can be made to fit into such existing stylistic categories as Rococo and Neoclassical. The immensely... Full Review
May 14, 1999
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Reindeer Company
The Reindeer Company, 1998. 600 ills. CD-ROM $40.00
The Art Historian CD-ROM set is designed to supplement art history courses. This review addresses questions about function and educational value rather than details of interpretation or information. How does the product enhance learning beyond slide lectures or standard textbooks? How does the CD-ROM take advantage of digital technologies to present art-historical material? Can faculty construct digital lectures from the CD? How easy is the software to use? Scope A... Full Review
May 13, 1999