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

Reviews in are published continuously by CAA and Taylor & Francis, with the most recently published reviews listed below. Browse reviews based on geographic region, period or cultural sphere, or specialty (from 1998 to the present) using Review Categories in the sidebar or by entering terms in the search bar above.

Recently Published Reviews

Lawrence J. Vale
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. 460 pp. Cloth $45.00 (0674002865)
Those of us who live in Massachusetts are fortunate that Lawrence Vale settled here to apply his considerable intellectual and writing talents to the study of public housing in Boston, rather than, say, in Chicago, San Francisco, or St. Louis. The rest of you, don't despair: From the Puritans to the Projects: Public Housing and Public Neighbors is not just a parochial story about Boston, but an insightful historical analysis of the relationship between the cultural meanings of land and home, attitudes about responsibility for both oneself and others, urban design, and social policy. Vale convincingly argues that one cannot… Full Review
September 14, 2001
Herbert L. Kessler
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000. 265 pp. Cloth (0812235606)
Many an undergraduate lecture hall still furnishes a home for the Icoelacanth of medieval studies—hat is, for the historian who shows slides of medieval images as mere illustrations of daily life, or as nothing more than a graphic adjunct to the words of medieval sources. In an episode of habitat encroachment that none need lament, this collection of Herbert Kessler's recent essays makes life more difficult for the living fossil. Again and again the author shows how early medieval images from Byzantium and the West "reveal[ed] truth in sensual beauty" (205), expressed arguments, and embodied "complex theological interpretations" (201) in… Full Review
September 14, 2001
Jan Baetens, ed.
Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2001. 212 pp.; few b/w ills. Paper $20.81 (9058671097)
The graphic novel, a story presented as a fully illustrated narrative, is a high-art version of the comic strip. Like the true novel, the graphic novel treats serious subjects, but using images together with words combined with pictures. The proceedings of a conference on the graphic novel held at the University of Leuven, May 2000, The Graphic Novel contains studies of such well-known graphic novels as Art Spiegelman's Maus, Jacques Tardi's visual narratives, and some lesser-known writers, and several essays devoted to the theory of the relation between word and image in these strips James Reibman, Ed Tan, Sue… Full Review
September 7, 2001
Elizabeth J. Milleker, ed.
New Haven and New York: Yale University Press in association with Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. 232 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300085143)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 3, 2000-January 14, 2001.
The idea of viewing systematically world art from a single moment in time offers an extraordinary opportunity to consider the prospect of a world art history that parallels an emerging subdiscipline of history that has come to be called world history. It looks at systems in an interlocked world, for example trade in sugar or slaves. Recognizing that even in ancient times people moved over vast distances and carried with them ideas that influenced the production of art, the discipline of art history as well could develop a world art history. Such a subdiscipline, i.e. world art history, could do… Full Review
September 5, 2001
Elizabeth Valdez Del Alamo and Carol Stamatis Pendergast, eds.
Aldershot, UK and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 2000. 317 pp.; 93 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (0754600769)
Memory and the Medieval Tomb gathers together eleven essays that explore the commemorative function of the tomb, from the early Christian catacombs to the fifteenth century, in England, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and France. It is a valuable collection that offers a wide range of themes and approaches. Some papers are about the way in which the design and location of tombs were carefully contrived to keep alive the memory of the deceased, so that his or her soul might enjoy the benefits of repeated masses and prayers. Others are about the ulterior meanings these monuments might bear and the connotations… Full Review
September 5, 2001
Robin Jaffee Frank
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000. 362 pp.; 100 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0300087241)
Yale University Art Gallery, October 3-December 30, 2000; Gibbes Museum of Art, February 10-April 8, 2001; and Addison Gallery of American Art, April 27-July 31, 2001.
Significant collections of American miniatures are owned by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, the Yale University Art Museum in New Haven, CT, and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC. While some of these institutions have produced catalogues, relatively few publications exist that discuss the portrait and mourning miniatures in their own and others' collections. Art-history monographs and dissertations on American miniaturists are even more rare, save for those on Benjamin West, John Singleton Copley, Charles Fraser, and Charles… Full Review
August 31, 2001
Laurie Schneider Adams
Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001. 210 pp.; 29 color ills.; 83 b/w ills. Paper $26.00 (0813334268)
Laurie Schneider Adams
Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2001. 420 pp. Cloth $75.00 (0813336902)
The publication of these two intellectually engaging and visually appealing textbooks by Laurie Schneider Adams provides a good opportunity to reconsider the main options available for surveys of Italian Renaissance art. Art historians, like most academics, tend to argue the relative merits of different textbooks with great gravity, finding fault for reasons of coverage, method, or quality of reproductions. In this age of interactive web syllabi, these problems are relatively surmountable; we can link students to news articles, museum, educational, and informational websites, electronic texts, or other images to fill in the perceived gaps. But the textbook remains the basic… Full Review
August 30, 2001
C.R. Dodwell
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 171 pp. Cloth $69.95 (0521661889)
The publication of Anglo-Saxon Gestures and the Roman Stage posthumously honors C. R. Dodwell's lifelong work on early medieval art. Timothy Graham, formerly Dodwell's research assistant, considerately saw the book through to press. In this volume, Dodwell considers the origins of the illustrations in Carolingian Terence manuscripts and their possible relationship to illuminations produced at Canterbury or under Canterbury's influence in the eleventh century. Although its deductions are problematic, this study is nonetheless valuable for its systematic analysis of gestures in the manuscripts' imagery; it will interest not only art historians but also intellectual historians and classicists. … Full Review
August 29, 2001
Frank Büttner
Weisbaden, Germany: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1980. 374 pp.; 228 b/w ills. Cloth $318.00 (3515032584)
The Nazarenes engaged the most vital philosophical, theological, and poetic issues of their time with an intensity scarcely rivaled in the history of nineteenth-century art. Thus, given the interest of contemporary art historians in theory and interdisciplinary studies, one could confidently assume that research on Nazarenism would represent a burgeoning field. And yet, the contrary is the case. The puzzling lack of scholarly engagement with Nazarenism has partially resulted from the modernist disdain for the movement's historicist idiom and its orientation toward religion. Whereas these issues clearly bear ideological connotations—reinforced by questions of taste—the neglect of Nazarene art reflects more… Full Review
August 28, 2001
Katherine M. D. Dunbabin
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 357 pp.; 40 color ills.; 318 b/w ills. Cloth $140.00 (052146143X)
For too long, ancient mosaics have been the stepchild of histories of ancient art, although they exist in countless numbers from all over the Empire, contribute substantially to the décor of the buildings, both public and private, in which they occur, and constitute an extraordinary repertory of ornamental and figurative motifs. For several decades, however, under the leadership of Henri Stern and his many colleagues and successors in Europe and America, there has appeared an extensive, if largely descriptive, archaeological and art-historical literature, especially on Roman mosaics, whose disparate character is fully revealed in the publications of the various congresses… Full Review
August 21, 2001
Hayden B. J. Maginnis and Gabriele Erasmi
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001. 464 pp.; 16 color ills.; 108 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0271020040)
For three decades, Hayden Maginnis has helped shape the way historians of medieval painting consider the art of Italy. Noted for his illuminating essays, Maginnis has recently set out to produce a three-volume study of thirteenth- and fourteenth- century Sienese painting that will surely set the standard for new approaches to art history for generations to come. The first book in this series, the highly acclaimed Painting in the Age of Giotto: A Historical Reevaluation, appeared four years ago. That volume has now been followed by its sibling, The World of the Early Sienese Painter, a text that… Full Review
August 15, 2001
David Leatherbarrow
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 335 pp.; 87 b/w ills. Cloth $37.95 (0262122308)
Since the mid-1960s, art and design critics, theorists, and practitioners have wholeheartedly embraced issues of site and context as part of the creative process. When Jack Burnham published "Systems Esthetic" in the September 1968 issue of Artforum, he identified a body of work that could not be described or evaluated according to narrowly construed modern-art criteria that valued an autonomous, bounded object. The site-specific works, happenings, and process pieces that Burnham noted include works by Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, Carl Andre, Hans Haacke, and Alan Kaprow. These works, often embedded in particular places, were as much fragments or interventions… Full Review
August 14, 2001
Michael Shapiro and Brett Miller
Berkeley: American Association of Museums, 1999. 120 pp.; 99 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (0931201632)
At the stroke of midnight, December 31, 1977, valuable collections vanished suddenly and probably forever from museums all over the United States. The dollar value of the loss has never, to my knowledge, been assessed. Yet, it certainly ranked in the many millions. Surprisingly, museum officials at first took little notice of their loss. They filed no police reports, made no insurance claims. In the days and weeks that followed, there were no mass protests against the vast conspiracy, reaching to the very highest levels of the U.S. government, responsible for this uncompensated transfer of huge amounts of museum… Full Review
August 14, 2001
Kumiko Maekawa
Bern: Peter Lang, 1999. 349 pp. Cloth $52.95 (0820435813)
A book with the title Narrative and Experience: Innovations in Thirteenth-Century Picture Books seems to promise insights into how stories function and work upon readers; or perhaps, how narratives come to be significant within cultures. Alternately, such a study might immerse its readers in the intricacies of the working of a few particularly intriguing stories. Unfortunately, in terms of these sorts of expectations, Kumiko Maekawa's book delivers only disappointment. Nonetheless, even if a title seems to promise more than it delivers, it is unfair to criticize an author for failing to write the book that one would like to read… Full Review
August 13, 2001
Anne D. Hedeman
Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2001. 123 pp.; 8 color ills.; 39 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0252026144)
Anne D. Hedeman's Of Counselors and Kings offers a comprehensive investigation of the Dialogues of Pierre Salmon. Salmon was an advisor to the ill-starred French king Charles VI (r. 1380-1422), whose debilitating mental illness contributed to a series of profound crises during his reign. The manuscripts consist of a set of questions purportedly posed by the king to Salmon—first concerning political issues and then theological matters—followed by a collection of transcribed letters relating to Salmon's attempts to discover a remedy for the king's illness. A second, slightly later version of the text also includes a lengthy treatise on virtues and… Full Review
August 10, 2001