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

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Michael Meister’s review of my book The Temple Architecture of India brings to the fore two basic and interrelated questions about medieval Indian temples. How should one name and classify their various forms? And how were these forms conceived and designed? The review focuses largely on typology and terminology. Meister implies one general criticism: that I do not adequately follow the names suggested for shrine forms by inscriptions and texts. Here the distinction needs to be made between deciphering the intended meaning of architectural categories used in texts with no illustrations, and categorizing, through illustrations as well as words,… Full Review
June 11, 2008
Although not well known to the general public, the eighteenth-century French painter and draughtsman Gabriel de Saint-Aubin has long compelled specialists working on virtually every aspect of Parisian social and cultural life. His exuberant depictions took the form of drawings in chalk, ink, and watercolor, as well as etchings and a few oil paintings, while his subjects ranged over most aspects of the cultured world around him: social interaction both high and low; theater; royal ceremony; legal proceedings; portraiture; history; architecture and ornamental design; and the unique product for which he is best known, miniature depictions of other artists’ works… Full Review
May 6, 2008
Two weeks after opening its Gates of Paradise exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held a symposium to explore various issues surrounding the creation, reception, and conservation of Ghiberti’s masterpiece. An international panel of art historians, curators, and conservators offered a range of general and specialist talks to accompany the remarkable loan of three narrative reliefs and four framing elements from the final set of bronze doors created for the Florentine Baptistery. Ian Wardropper, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman of the Metropolitan’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts (ESDA), welcomed conference attendees. Cristina Acidini, Superintendent of the… Full Review
April 8, 2008
In 1936, for the cover of the Museum of Modern Art's Cubism and Abstract Art exhibition catalogue, Alfred Barr famously created a flowchart of modernist movements fueling his two chosen strains of non-geometrical and geometrical abstraction. Barr’s recasting of history, which left out not only those modernist movements that did not fit his formalist history but also any mention of the contexts behind their success might be described as an example of what Van Wyck Brooks termed a “usable past.” In his 1918 essay appearing under that phrase, Brooks rejected the literary history of his day as the product of… Full Review
November 28, 2007
“Public history” is a well-established and familiar sub-discipline to students of history. Many universities offer degrees and concentrations in this or a related field. Historians who train in public scholarship expect to pursue work in places where a relatively broad audience encounters the past, including national parks and monuments, historic houses, and museums. As public historians, they pursue research and author historical materials. They may be involved in curating exhibitions, directing educational programs, and advocating for historic preservation, among other, more general administrative duties. Fundamentally, their job is to interpret history for a range of audiences, and to mediate between… Full Review
November 27, 2007
On April 22, 2007, the Metropolitan Museum of Art sponsored a symposium to discuss issues surrounding the exhibition Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797. The symposium brought together a group of experts on the interactions between Venice and Islam. In his introduction to the symposium, Stefano Carboni, curator of the exhibition and administrator of the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum, emphasized the three concepts governing the exhibition: to show the reasons why Venice had so many trade relationships with the Islamic world, to examine the relationship between trade and diplomacy, and to discuss Venice’s… Full Review
September 12, 2007
The ninth Clark Art Institute spring conference was organized by Marq Smith, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Visual Culture, along with Michael Ann Holly and Mark Ledbury, director and associate director, respectively, of the Clark’s Research and Academic Programs. In her opening remarks, Holly noted that a handful of those initially invited to speak declined on the grounds that research was simply what they did and there was really nothing much more they could imagine saying about it. Something of this sense is reflected as well in remarks by the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai cited by both Smith and Holly… Full Review
August 8, 2007
Stephanie S. Dickey
College Art Association.
By most accounts, Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn was born in Leiden on July 15, 1606, as stated by the Leiden chronicler Jan Jansz Orlers in 1641. Recently, a few close reviews of the documentation have suggested that the date should be moved to 1607, but this revelation failed to stop the juggernaut already set in motion by museums eager to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of the artist’s birth. The “Rembrandt Year” of 2006 witnessed the staging of dozens of exhibitions across the world, both major loan shows and focused opportunities for museums to showcase their holdings of works by Rembrandt… Full Review
July 26, 2007
What do we mean when we say “the nineteenth century”? Where does it begin? Where does it end? What does it contain or exclude? How do we make such choices—on what basis? Surveying four major textbooks, this review offers a look back at the ways these questions have been answered over the past two decades, beginning with the first publication of Robert Rosenblum and H.W. Janson’s 19th-Century Art in 1984 and ending with the second edition of Petra ten-Doesschate Chu’s Nineteenth-Century European Art in 2006.[1] Although other forms of scholarship (journal articles, monographs, exhibition catalogues, and the like) perform such… Full Review
June 21, 2007
Rediscovering Venetian Renaissance Painting was the closing event of several associated with the exhibition Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, June 18–September 17, 2006. Previous events included a Robert H. Smith Curatorial/Conservation Colloquy entitled Venetian Underdrawing at the National Gallery’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. Among the participants were Paolo Spezzani, X-ray and infrared specialist from Venice; Jill Dunkerton, conservator from London National Gallery; Barbara Berrie and Elizabeth Walmsley of the Washington National Gallery; and Carmen Bambach, curator of the Metropolitan Museum Drawing Department. On… Full Review
January 24, 2007