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

John Lowden
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. 360 pp.; 27 color ills.; 117 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0271019093)
John Lowden's ambitious new study of the most opulent and complex manuscripts produced during the High Middle Ages is a brilliant, ground-breaking work. For the reader who has been engaged in any way with moralized Bibles, a careful reading of this detailed and densely argued text will be rewarded with an array of major revisions touching almost every aspect of the existing scholarship. Centered on issues of the production and consumption of the Bibles Moralisées, Lowden's two separate but closely interrelated volumes adopt a dual strategy. The first undertakes a "broadly codicological" analysis of each… Full Review
July 5, 2001
Gregory C. Randall
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. 264 pp.; 63 b/w ills. Cloth $42.50 (0801862078)
Among the chief protagonists of William H. Whyte's 1956 Organization Man is the village of Park Forest. Planned in 1946 and built in stages over the next decade, Whyte framed the new "package suburb" thirty miles south of Chicago as the natural habitat for a new "social ethic" that was transforming the country. Increasing numbers of young, white, mobile, and seemingly middle-class families were creating new patterns of interpersonal adjustment, domestic privacy, civic participation, leisure, and spending. While Whyte did not inquire too deeply into the intricacies of planning and implementation, he did create informal maps of particular micro-neighborhoods that… Full Review
June 27, 2001
Richard Shiff, Robert Storr, and Arthur C. Danto, eds.
Phaidon, 2000. 332 pp.; 200 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (0714838195)
With Robert Mangold, I enjoyed thinking about what autonomous art might entail. Beyond the routine social constructionist dismissals of this possibility, it obligates considerations more complex than an "Against Interpretation" kind of appeal to raw experience. With their internal sequences rooted in physical reality and construction details, Mangold’s paintings provide objective criteria by which to evaluate them. These criteria count for more than any individual interpretation of them. Such an aesthetic autonomy would require that an artist have some kind of intuitive calculus for tacking against a continuously changing culture, for resisting what Richard Shiff… Full Review
June 22, 2001
Susan Sidlauskas
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 230 pp.; 8 color ills.; 56 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521770246)
In the introduction to Body, Place, and Self in Nineteenth-Century Painting, Susan Sidlauskas asks the following question about the four paintings she examines in her book: "What material and theoretical conditions—of making and spectatorship—made these works possible?" (2). This is an important query, and not just because it acknowledges both the artist’s and the beholder’s share in the production of meaning. What Sidlauskas suggests is that the work of art history ought to begin with an exploration of what it was possible for painters and viewers to think and say about a work of art at a given historical… Full Review
June 22, 2001
Malcolm Goldstein
Oxford University Press, 2000. 370 pp. Cloth (019513673X)
The art market has become headline news: Masterpiece paintings regularly achieve prices in the tens of millions of dollars, prominent museum curators appear on television broadcasts, and glossy magazines feature New York art dealers on their covers. Various publications and exhibitions have examined certain periods in the development of the fine art market and commercial galleries in the United States, including, most notably, Linda Henefield Skalet's "The Market for American Painting in New York: 1870-1915" (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins, 1980), the Zabriskie Gallery's Charles Daniel and The Daniel Gallery 1913-1932 (New York: Zabriskie Gallery, 1993), and Sarah Greenough's exhibition at… Full Review
June 8, 2001
Patricia Meilman
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 260 pp.; some color ills.; many b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521640954)
The subject of Titian and the Altarpiece in Renaissance Venice, notwithstanding its expansive title, is Titian's celebrated Peter Martyr Altarpiece (1537-30). In spite of the painting's fiery demise in 1867, Patricia Meilman successfully reconstructs the altarpiece and its environment in the reader's mind, a project facilitated by her clarity of purpose to re-secure the work's artistic importance. The author furnishes a close study of the religious context, sources, and subsequent critical and artistic significance of this unusual commission to a prestigious artist by the Scuola of San Pietro Martire for its altar in the nave of the Dominican church… Full Review
June 6, 2001
John Crook
Oxford University Press, 1999. 308 pp.; 111 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0198207948)
John Crook's study, The Architectural Setting of the Cult of the Saints in the Early Christian West c. 300-1200, represents a remarkable synthesis of more than a decade of research spent in pursuit of a laudably ambitious goal: to provide an overview of the architectural setting of the cult of the saints in the West between the beginnings of the cult and 1200. Given the many factors that complicate the project, the results are much to be admired. Work on a similar, but much narrower, topic allowed me unwonted familiarity with the difficulties Crook certainly encountered (Cynthia Hahn, "Seeing… Full Review
May 28, 2001
Vidya Dehejia, ed.
Munich: Prestel, 2000. 2 pp.; 215 ills. Cloth $80.00 (379132408X)
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, December 3, 2000-March 25, 2001.
As any bibliophile knows, art books can be both purveyors of information about objects and objects of beauty themselves. This is certainly the case with the exquisite catalogue created for the recent exhibition on early photographs of India held at the Smithsonian Institution's Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, DC. India through the Lens: Photography 1840-1911, edited by Vidya Dehejia, has a carefully coordinated aesthetic appeal—from the fold-out pages revealing the protracted splendor of panoramic photographs to the sepia-colored frontispieces of each section designed to match the sepia-toned photographs that follow. Eleven essays, written by seven contributors and varying from… Full Review
May 25, 2001
Christine M. Boeckl
Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2000. 210 pp.; 45 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (094354985X)
Christine Boeckl's Images of Plague and Pestilence: Iconography and Iconology is a concise overview of the visual and literary history of cultural responses to pestilential epidemics. In this study, Boeckl draws on her extensive knowledge of the scholarly literature on plague—pioneered by Jacqueline Brossollet and Henri Mollaret—and to which she has contributed several significant articles since completing her dissertation in 1990. Thus, the book draws on Boeckl's familiarity with the symptoms of the plague, its history of outbreaks, its causes, its folklore, the devotional images created to ward it off, and the iconographic conventions established for representing those stricken by… Full Review
May 22, 2001
Evan M. Maurer and Niangi Batulukisi
Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Art in association with University of Minnesota Press, 1998. 154 pp.; 76 color ills.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $34.95 (0816636559)
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN, October 1, 1999-July 2, 2000.
Spirits Embodied: Art of the Congo; Selections from the Helmut F. Stern Collection was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title held in 1999 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. All the works came from the Congo. Helmut Stern purchased most of them from Marc Léo Félix, the Belgian connoisseur and African art dealer. The core of the collection, twenty-two out of seventy-one pieces, formerly belonged to the late Belgian artist Joseph Henrion; the rest came from French, Belgian, and Portuguese collectors. The quality of the works varies considerably: some are quite remarkable for their forms and… Full Review
May 20, 2001
John Williams, ed.
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. 228 pp. Cloth $75.00 (0271017686)
For much of the twentieth century, the study of medieval Bible illustration was focused on the problem of origins. In the most systematic theory of the genre, Kurt Weitzmann argued in Roll and Codex (Princeton, 1947) that the earliest biblical manuscripts followed the conventions of ancient papyrus rolls in which narrative images were embedded within narrow columns of text, providing a dense sequence of pictorial equivalents to the principal episodes of the text. Establishing a rigorous method of "picture criticism," Weitzmann argued that one could detect in later cycles the different phases of adjustment that resulted from the gradual emancipation… Full Review
May 18, 2001
Mary Bergstein
Princeton University Press, 2000. 230 pp.; 164 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0691009821)
Mary Bergstein's The Sculpture of Nanni di Banco follows in the tradition of the great monographs like Sculpture of Donatello by H.W. Janson and Lorenzo Ghiberti by Richard Krautheimer, but on a more modest scale. Although Nanni di Banco (ca. 1374-1421) accomplished only six major works in his career, he, with Brunelleschi, Ghiberti and Donatello, "self-consciously and deliberately set into motion the issues that would occupy painters, sculptors, and architects through out the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Italy" (3). This book finally revives Nanni from scholarly neglect, though Brunetti, Lanyi, Vaccarino, Janson, Wundram, and Bellosi previously had made attempts… Full Review
May 15, 2001
Lucy Freeman Sandler
Harvey Miller Publishers, 1999. 120 pp.; 25 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (187250132X)
The Psalter of Robert de Lisle (London, British Library Arundel MS 83 II) has been mentioned in every major publication on the masterpieces of English manuscript illumination. Lucy Freeman Sandler's The Psalter of Robert de Lisle in the British Library, first published in 1983, is the first focused study of the Psalter, and condenses material from her 1964 doctoral dissertation. Scholarly reviews in the mid-1980s, such as those by Walter Cahn in the Art Bulletin (September 1987, 472-473) and Adelaide Bennett in Speculum (October 1987, 985-989), were positive and acted as venues for yet more useful material about the… Full Review
May 11, 2001
Susan Weber Soros
Exh. cat. Yale University Press, 1999. 430 pp. (0300080093)
Susan Weber Soros
Yale University Press, 2000. 300 pp.; 240 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0300081596)
E. W. Godwin (1833-86) was a Victorian architect-designer who balanced historical precedent with innovation, "high" with "low" art, and exotic with vernacular to become the master of "judicious eclecticism." Two recent books on his practice, E. W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer and The Secular Furniture of E. W. Godwin, should be read as a pair. Undoubtedly, Susan Soros—editor of the first and author of the second—agrees, as she often refers the reader of one to the other. The former was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title held at the Bard Graduate Center for… Full Review
May 7, 2001
John W. O’Malley
Harvard University Press, 2000. 230 pp. Cloth (0674000870)
In this fascinating book, John W. O'Malley, the eminent church historian, analyzes scholarship on Roman Catholicism from about 1517 until the French Revolution in order to problematize the "names," or terms, we use for religious developments of that time. As he notes, although the term "Reformation" is generally accepted for Protestantism of the era, consensus is lacking on what to term coeval Catholicism (1). O'Malley examines the biases revealed by the competing names for Catholicism—such as "Counter-Reformation," "Catholic Reformation," and "Catholic Restoration"—and suggests that we use a new term instead: "early modern Catholicism." In making this suggestion, O'Malley aims to… Full Review
May 4, 2001