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

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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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Joanna R. Barnes and J. Patrice Marandel
Pennsylvania State University Press in association with American Federation of Arts, 1994. 191 pp.; 92 color ills.; 51 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (0812232755)
Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, N.C., October 14–December 11, 1994; Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Fla.; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta; Dahesh Museum, New York, September 22, 1998–January 2, 1999
The Dahesh Museum in New York was the latest venue for an exhibition titled French Oil Sketches and the Academic Tradition, organized by the American Federation of the Arts and previously shown, in a more expanded version, at the Mint Museum, the Society of the Four Arts, the Arkansas Art Center, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. The exhibition was composed entirely of works from a single private collection that is on long-term loan to the University Art Museum in... Full Review
January 28, 1999
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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Vincent Pomarede and Arlette Serullaz
Exh. cat. Thames and Hudson, 1998. 408 pp.; 250 b/w ills. $65.00 (0500092753)
Grand Palais, Paris, April 7–July 20, 1998; Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 15, 1998–January 3, 1999
"I am in that phase of life when the tumult of the mad passions does not mingle with the delightful emotions which works of art give to me. I don't know the meaning of dusty papers and hateful occupations, which is what almost all human beings must devote themselves to; instead of thinking of business, I think only of Rubens and Mozart: my great business, for a week, is the memory of an aria or a picture. I go to my work as others hasten to their mistress, and when I leave it, I carry... 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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Judith Barter
Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 320 pp.; 100 color ills.; 200 b/w ills. $65.00 (0810940892)
Art Institute of Chicago, October 10, 1998–January 10, 1999; Museum of Fine Art, Boston, February 14–May 9, 1999; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., June 6–September 6, 1999
Not surprisingly, the public flocked to see the well-conceived Mary Cassatt exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, standing in line to buy calendars, posters, refrigerator magnets, and coffee cups adorned with her beloved images. Yet the exhibition curator, Judith Barter, intentionally downplayed the sentimental side of Cassatt, opting instead to show her evolution as a "modern" artist. Ninety key works, including paintings, pastels, drawings, and prints, highlighted Cassatt's progress... Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Bodo Brinkmann
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 1997. 441 pp.; 63 color ills.; 367 b/w ills. Cloth €85.00 (2503505651)
The subject of this monograph is the Netherlandish book illuminator whom Friedrich Winkler named the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook in 1914 after a Book of Hours—not a Prayerbook—in the State Library of Saxony (ms. A.311). Although some thirty ascriptions to the artist have been made in the eighty years since Winkler's pioneering essay, Brinkmann is the first scholar carefully and systematically to examine the painter's entire output. Brinkmann has enlarged that output to fifty-two... Full Review
December 8, 1998
Lynn F. Jacobs
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 352 pp.; 91 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521474833)
If quizzed to name two sculptors of early Netherlandish wooden altarpieces, many of my colleagues and I would not pass or would do so only with considerable searching the depths of our memories. Even if we relaxed the rules and permitted the use of the standard introductions to Netherlandish art by Charles Cuttler (1968), James Snyder (1985), or Craig Harbison (1995), these yield just four examples, two of which are given as by anonymous artists. Jacques de Baerze is known primarily because... Full Review
December 6, 1998
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Penny Howell Jolly
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. 155 pp.; 12 color ills.; 34 b/w ills. $45.00 (0520205376)
For decades the rich, dense heritage of medieval and Renaissance Venice has offered historians, art historians, and social scientists an array of subjects and an evolving methodological arsenal for their analysis. Building on the work of previous generations, recent scholars have expanded our understanding of the manner in which a society can use its visual culture to construct a variety of identities: civic, religious, class, familial, and even individual, conveying messages that were... Full Review
December 1, 1998
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