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

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Paul Hayes Tucker, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 192 pp. Paper $49.95 (0521479843)
For all the directness of its facture, and despite the candor of model Victorine Meurent's knowing (yet somehow alienated) gaze, Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, a manifesto of modern painting, has always proved problematic when it comes to critical and historical interpretation. At the time of its succes de scandale at the Salon des refusés in 1863, one critic admitted that he searched "in vain for the meaning" of it. Since that time, various readings have been suggested, none of them definitive. Zola's formalism in retrospect appears to have been at least partly an effort to defuse the scandal, yet… Full Review
May 6, 1999
Michael Kelly, ed.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 2224 pp.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $495.00 (0195113071)
The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics will be a useful resource to students, practitioners, and historians of the arts, as well as to aestheticians and other philosophers. But this may not be evident from its title. For those who define terms narrowly, this publication tests the boundaries of "aesthetics" and "encyclopedia." However, those who are simply wary of reading about aesthetics or of consulting encyclopedias will be pleasantly surprised. Aesthetics, here, is interpreted broadly, and the approach to being encyclopedic is to take a panoramic snapshot of current activity in a large discourse community. Editor Michael Kelly acknowledges… Full Review
May 3, 1999
Philip W. Jackson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 222 pp. Cloth $48.00 (9780300072136)
Pragmatism maintained that a proposition must be tested, rendered active, before it can be deemed valid. The criteria of judgment that William James set out is simply "what definite difference it will make to you and me, at definite instants of our life, if this world formula or that world formula be true." It is therefore appropriate that the first American school of theory should be used to test the operations of contemporary American art. William James's criteria is extended by the philosopher John Dewey, who asks that a proposition not only be tested to make a difference, but that… Full Review
April 30, 1999
Cecil L. Striker and Y. Dogan Kuban, eds.
Munich: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1997. 150 pp.; 35 color ills.; 144 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (3805320264)
When the International Congress of Byzantine Studies convened in Istanbul in 1955, none of its delegates was able to enter the Byzantine church now known as the Kalenderhane Camii, even though it lay barely five minutes from Istanbul University. Locked and abandoned, the building was not penetrated until a decade later, when Striker received permission to cut the lock, the key having long since disappeared. The state of decrepitude he found could not disguise the Kalenderhane's historical significance. Happily, dereliction made it possible for Striker, in collaboration with Kuban, to undertake the detailed analysis, excavation, and restoration of the building… Full Review
April 30, 1999
Irmgard Siede
Munich: EOS Verlag, 1997. 333 pp.; 12 color ills.; 68 b/w ills. €57.30 (388096629X)
In 1891, Wilhelm Vöge inaugurated the modern academic study of Ottonian book illumination with the publication of his dissertation, Eine deutsche Malerschule um die Wende des ersten Jahrtausends (Trier, 1891). Vöge's still classic monograph assembled a cohesive corpus of selected Ottonian manuscripts based on an investigation that included stylistic, iconographic, and textual criticism; his Malerschule has since been attributed to the monastic scriptorium of Reichenau. Despite the occasional attack, the Reichenau school has remained the bedrock of Ottonian manuscript studies; dated to ca. 1000, such magnificent books as the Otto Gospels, the Bamberg Apocalypse, and the Pericopes of Henry… Full Review
April 29, 1999
Hans Belting
Trans Scott Kleager New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 128 pp.; 27 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (0300076169)
The brevity and informal nature of these essays, first published in German in 1992, should not obscure their density, just as the length and extremely formal nature of Belting's Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art should not obscure the clarity of its essential argument. That dichotomy—dense, "formless" evocation versus brief, "rational" argument—will be familiar to Belting, since it is one of the manifestations of the "troublesome" relationship between German and Italian art. The question of the national characteristics of art is important but treacherous, perhaps especially in Germany's case.… Full Review
April 22, 1999
Jonathan M. Bloom
New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Ediciones El Viso and Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Kingdom of Morocco, 1998. 124 pp.; 80 color ills.; 28 b/w ills. Cloth (0300086377)
This splendidly illustrated book provides a meticulous documentation of the restoration of one of the finest works of medieval Islamic woodwork surviving today. Restoration began as a result of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 1992 exhibition "Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain" in which the minbar (pulpit) of the Kutubiyya Mosque in Marrakesh was featured in the catalogue but, due to its fragile condition, could not suffer transport for display in New York and Granada. In 1996–97 the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs, assembled a technical team to clean, stabilize, and support… Full Review
April 22, 1999
O. A. Krivtsun
Moscow: Aspect Press Publishers, 1998. 430 pp. Cloth
This book focuses on the fundamental philosophical issues of art and the actual problems of modern art history. It unfurls a polyphonic tapestry of the development of art from antiquity to the twentieth century in relation to various stages in the development of European culture. However, the chief purpose of O. A. Krivtsun's work appears to be not so much the reproduction of historical and artistic factual details as raising, and finding answers for, questions of the art process theory. The book includes eight sections and thirty-five chapters. The sections include: "Philosophy of Art History," "General Theory of Art," "Sociology… Full Review
April 21, 1999
Andrew Butterfield
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 272 pp.; 200 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300071949)
As the author notes in his introduction, The Sculptures of Andrea del Verrocchio is preceded by nine major monographs on the artist. Without question, Butterfield's reconsideration of the sculptural production of Verrocchio adds considerably to what remains a surprisingly uncertain chronology—despite the earlier monographs and countless other articles on individual works (including the essays published in 1992, Verrocchio and Late Quattrocento Italian Sculpture, ed. Steven Bule et al., Florence: Le Lettere). Andrea del Verrocchio was born between 1434 and 1437 in Florence and died in 1488 in Venice. He produced some of the most important large-scale,… Full Review
April 21, 1999
Michael Podro
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 208 pp.; 44 color ills.; 88 b/w ills. Cloth $30.00 (0300069146)
Erwin Panofsky is said to have been particularly pleased with the fact that he possessed one near-sighted and one-far sighted eye. Using his optical inheritance as a model for how one should write the history of art—paying attention to detail and description, while never neglecting the panoramic view—he provided successive generations of art historians with a powerful challenge to disciplinary blindspots. Michael Podro, one of Panofsky's most insightful readers (as witnessed in his much reprinted The Critical Historians of Art [Yale University Press, 1982]) has put this visual lesson to stunning work in his recent writing. Nevertheless, Podro's lavish and… Full Review
April 21, 1999