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

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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
Rosiland Krauss
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 222 pp.; 97 b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (0262112396)
It may be that Rosalind Krauss’s work has been subject to more disparate interpretations than any postwar art historian. In one reading, her work is methodologically scattered, moving from one theory to another without apparent connection; in another, it is curiously nonfeminist despite its repeated focus on women artists; in a third, it is restricted to major media (photography, sculpture, painting) and therefore out of touch with the current media expansion. The first makes her unreliable, the second and third irrelevant. It may be time to try to come to a more balanced and closer understanding of… Full Review
June 25, 1999
Natalia B. Teteriatnikov
Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1998. 73 pp. Paper $15.00 (0884022641)
Hagia Sophia, what the Byzantines called the Great Church, has had many lives: imperial monument built by Justinian in 532–37 immediately following and in response to serious urban rioting; cathedral of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, principal setting for religious and political ceremonies to the end of the empire; Jami or chief mosque of the capital of the Ottoman Empire, ceremonial setting adjacent to another imperial palace, now that of the Sultan; and today, a state museum and major tourist attraction. Twice during the past 150 years, the grand medieval and early modern church/mosque met modernity. In 1847–49, and… Full Review
June 25, 1999
Charles Sterling, Maryan W. Ainsworth, Charles Talbot, Martha Wolff, Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, Jonathan Brown, and John Hayes
New York and Princeton: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Princeton University Press, 2009. 256 pp.; 60 color ills.; 97 b/w ills. Cloth $125.00 (0691006989)
Lorne Campbell
London: National Gallery, London in association with Yale University Press, 1999. 464 pp.; 110 color ills.; 270 b/w ills. Cloth £75.00 (185709171X)
Two recent collection catalogues, both investigating early modern European paintings, provide an index of the state of the art for scholarship on individual museum objects. Both are splendidly produced and result from years of patient research. Both admirably adduce the latest technical investigation from the conservation laboratory and integrate it with other findings. In one case, London's National Gallery, the credited single curatorial author, Lorne Campbell, clearly builds on the splendid precedent of the former curator, Martin Davies (to whose memory the catalogue is dedicated). In the other case, a previously unsystematic and diverse but important collection has finally received… Full Review
June 25, 1999
N. Katherine Hayles
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. 350 pp.; 5 b/w ills. Paper $18.00 (0226321460)
How We Became Posthuman is at root a book about what it is to be human during our time of rapid and jarring technological change, a book about how selfhood and philosophies have been transformed in the wake of the societal and technological revolutions brought about by computers, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. Everywhere, such phenomena as the Internet, the digitization of money, and the mapping of the genome are seen as destabilizing physicality and setting the stage for the posthuman era. Paradigmatic shifts in the conception of selfhood, society, and knowledge are shown to have broken… Full Review
June 25, 1999
James F. O’Gorman
Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998. 291 pp. Cloth $45.00 (1558491481)
It is inconceivable that the Albert Memorial in London and the illustrations to the novels of Charles Dickens novels might have been the work of the same man. But while such a state of affairs was unimaginable in England, it was perfectly plausible in nineteenth-century America, as the peculiar career of Hammatt Billings demonstrates. For Billings not only provided the celebrated illustrations for Uncle Tom's Cabin, but also designed the National Monument to the Forefathers at Plymouth, America's most ambitious piece of public sculpture prior to the Statue of Liberty. But if Billings did not observe the boundaries between the… Full Review
June 25, 1999
Dagmar Eichberger and Charles Zika, eds.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 255 pp.; 87 b/w ills. Cloth $64.95 (0521620376)
Those attempting to keep up with, let alone understand, the changing contexts of Dürer's art are faced with a Sisyphean challenge. Over the years, the artist has been extolled as, among other things, the most German of artists, a leader of the frühbürgerliche Revolution, a proto-Nazi, and a hippie. Hallowed by Protestants and Catholics alike—and with no less enthusiasm, I should add, by those espousing the cults of artistic genius and a disinterested Kantian aesthetic—he has also been adopted (or rather co-opted) by such disparate groups as Weimar Demokraten and National Socialists for what they perceived to be his sympathetic… Full Review
June 24, 1999