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

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Cécile Fromont
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2014. 328 pp.; 37 color ills.; 89 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9781469618715)
Cécile Fromont’s The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo presents a gripping narrative of hybridity, change, and global encounter as European Christianity, the Atlantic world, and the Kongo kingdom met at the start of the sixteenth century and continued to interact directly with each other into the nineteenth century. The topic of Kongo conversion has been heavily debated for decades, resulting in a dichotomous split on just how influential and... Full Review
November 28, 2017
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Marisa Anne Bass
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. 224 pp.; 40 color ills.; 57 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9780691169996)
The 2010 exhibition Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance (Metropolitan Museum and National Gallery, London) (click here for review) brought renewed attention to a key Netherlandish artist. Whereas the exhibition sought a comprehensive view of Gossart’s varied output, Marisa Anne Bass’s eloquent new book, Jan Gossart and the Invention of Netherlandish Antiquity, focuses specifically on his... Full Review
November 27, 2017
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John North Hopkins
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 268 pp.; 62 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300211818)
Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, was the maestro who remade Rome as a Carrara marble metropolis rivaling Athens and Alexandria and created a burgeoning empire of copycat cities. While his comprehensive conversion of the capital referenced Rome’s birth and the general trajectory of its first eight centuries, the dramatic transformation obscured some of the details of its storied past. A clearer picture of Rome’s pre-Augustan buildings and their striking significance is now beginning to... Full Review
November 22, 2017
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Stephen F. Eisenman
London: Reaktion Books, 2013. 312 pp.; 98 b/w ills. Paper $29.00 (9780780231952)
Stephen F. Eisenman’s vivid, compact study of artistic visions of animals in the modern era integrates historical, philosophical, and ethological research with an incisive political critique of capitalist exploitation of labor and life. Learned and wide-reaching, the book is written in a clear, jargon-free style that could make it accessible to general readers concerned about the relations between human and nonhuman animals in our world today as well as to specialists of Western art and... Full Review
November 22, 2017
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Amy R. Bloch
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 336 pp.; 16 color ills.; 269 b/w ills. Cloth $99.99 (9781107099166)
The critical fortune of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s art has suffered in the last centuries: first, because of the unfair assumption that it was the last gasp of Gothic art in Florence; and second, because Ghiberti was the subject of Richard Krautheimer’s influential monograph (with Trude Krautheimer-Hess, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956), the effect of which was largely to foreclose further discussion. Ghiberti’s second set of bronze doors for Florence’s... Full Review
November 21, 2017
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Anne Helmreich
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 264 pp.; 47 color ills.; 26 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271071145)
At a moment when popular opinion has us living in a “post-truth” world, it is revealing, and indeed imperative, to review the contested nature of past truth claims. In Nature’s Truth: Photography, Painting, and Science in Victorian Britain, Anne Helmreich examines the truth to nature edict that resonated through artistic and scientific discourses in the mid-nineteenth century. She then traces the transformation of truth to nature from its initial reliance on inductive reasoning—the... Full Review
November 21, 2017
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Kirk Savage, ed.
Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2016. 292 pp.; 88 color ills.; 57 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780300214680)
The 2016 anthology The Civil War in Art and Memory, edited by Kirk Savage, assembles fifteen essays presented in the symposium of the same title, sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in November 2013. The conference paralleled the exhibition Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial, curated by Sarah Greenough and Nancy Anderson, which took place from... Full Review
November 21, 2017
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Wyatt Gallery
Atglen: Schiffer, 2016. 240 pp.; 233 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780764350955)
Wyatt Gallery’s beautiful collection of photos documenting Jewish artifacts in the Caribbean elegantly eliminates people as it dwells in an elegiac past. It should, as a result, continue vigorous debates on the meaning and ethics of human representation in sites prone to romanticization. Do the islands, long the subject of colonial gazing, continue to serve as a place of others’ historical imaginations (as Krista A. Thompson suggests in her 2007 book An Eye for the Tropics: Tourism,... Full Review
November 20, 2017
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Nicholas Bauch
A Stanford Digital Project. Stanford: Stanford University, 2016. (9780804797399)
In Enchanting the Desert: A Pattern Language for the Production of Space (http://www.enchantingthedesert.com/home/), the inaugural Interactive Scholarly Works publication from Stanford University Press, geographer Nicholas Bauch “revives” as a layered digital map a forty-three-photograph slideshow of the Grand Canyon assembled and narrated by commercial photographer Henry Peabody in the first decades of the twentieth century.... Full Review
November 20, 2017
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Lia Markey
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 264 pp.; 68 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $79.95 (9780271071152)
One of the defining facts about the Medici court in Florence in the late sixteenth century is how, despite the richness of its artistic culture and the depth of its collecting, it remained essentially a bystander in the exploration, colonization, and mercantile exploitation of the New World. The Tuscan state nonetheless saw value in conceptualizing the effect of the expansion of the globe as a matter of local concern in a series of carefully curated artistic projects, often tied to objects... Full Review
November 17, 2017
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