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

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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
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