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

Reviews in caa.reviews 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

David J. Roxburgh and Mary McWilliams, eds.
Exh. cat. Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT: Harvard Art Museums in association with Yale University Press, 2017. 192 pp.; 232 ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300229196)
Harvard Art Museums, August 26, 2017–January 7, 2018
To say that arts of the Qajar dynasty (r. 1779–1925) are, without a doubt, en vogue in recent exhibition circuits is not an overstatement. In the last few years alone, one could see any number of shows featuring these Iranian imperial arts, ranging from The Eye of the Shah: Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past (NYU’s Institute for Study of the Ancient World, New York), Qajar Women: Images of Women in 19th-Century Iran (Museum of Islamic Art, Doha), and The Prince and the Shah: Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran (Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC) to the… Full Review
April 29, 2019
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Martha H. Kennedy
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2018. 255 pp.; 250 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781496815927)
In 1915 artist Cecilia Beaux wrote, “I very earnestly believe . . . that there should be no sex in Art. . . . I am pointing, I know, to a millennium at least . . . when the term ‘Women in Art’ will be as strange sounding a topic as the title ‘Men in Art’ would be now” (xi). This quote becomes a rallying cry for Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists at the Library of Congress. Prominently displayed in the exhibition and reiterated on the first page of the catalogue, it suggests that more than one… Full Review
April 26, 2019
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Milette Gaifman
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018. 196 pp.; 127 color ills.; 5 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300192278)
Milette Gaifman’s The Art of Libation in Classical Athens focuses on the ritual practice of offering liquids, commonly depicted on Athenian vases. Depictions of Greek animal sacrifice have been the focus of several research projects, broaching the topic from the textual and pictorial sources. The less prominent libation rituals have been approached in the study of visual culture only for specific cases, e.g., deities offering libations. With her study, Gaifman aims to “explore . . . the visual potency” (4) of libation scenes by focusing on the rich material of fifth-century BCE Athens, especially on painted vases. The understanding of… Full Review
April 24, 2019
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James Grantham Turner
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 464 pp.; 340 ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300219951)
Can sex be a muse, a creative stimulus for art? This question forms the basis of James Grantham Turner’s evocative Eros Visible: Art, Sexuality and Antiquity, a book that examines the erotic revolution that swept across the Italian art world between 1500 and 1563. The leaders of this movement are a group of well-known artists, writers, and patrons who sought pleasure in variety, delighted in matters of the flesh, and broke traditional boundaries for the sake of novelty. Rather than the loyal bonds of marriage, this book is dedicated to the exciting thrill of concupiscent love or sexual desire… Full Review
April 22, 2019
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San San May and Jana Igunma
London and Seattle: British Library and University of Washington Press, 2018. 256 pp.; 198 color ills. Cloth $64.95 (9780295743783)
The British Library is home to one of the world’s most important collections of manuscripts from Southeast Asia. Buddhism Illuminated focuses on the library’s holdings from the Buddhist traditions of mainland Southeast Asia, particularly in the area that is today Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. The book presents nearly two hundred high-quality reproductions from this deep and varied collection and describes Buddhist teachings, values, and practices in the region. This book is a significant landmark in Southeast Asian Buddhist manuscript studies. Its reproductions make it an essential reference source for scholars and, with its plain-spoken text, a rich and engaging overview… Full Review
April 5, 2019
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Justin Jennings and Adam T. Sellen, eds.
Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum Press, 2018. 270 pp.; 181 color ills.; 92 b/w ills. EBook $0.00 (9780888545237)
Fakes, pastiches, deceptive restorations, and outright forgeries have been a persistent problem in the study of art and antiquities since the Renaissance. Understandably, few museums are willing to release the number of such false pieces in their collections, but conservative estimates have long suggested 40 percent of works in museums are not what they claim to be. However, recent investigation at San Francisco’s Mexican Museum, for example, have shown some institutions—and some collections within them—have significantly higher statistics. While the average museumgoer may give little thought to the authenticity of what is on view, the polluting influence of fraudulent… Full Review
April 2, 2019
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Conor Lucey
Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2018. 264 pp.; 16 color ills.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth £75.00 (9781526119940)
From the middle of the eighteenth century through the 1830s, the brick row house became one of the most common urban building forms in the British Atlantic world. Artisan builders erected thousands of these rows of classically proportioned and ornamented town houses in the new streets, squares, and crescents of expanding cities as well as in smaller market and port towns in Great Britain, Ireland, and America. Built for a speculative market, town houses with broad frontages and elaborate ornamental details were designed to attract an elite aristocratic and gentry clientele. Dwellings of narrower widths and fewer embellishments were constructed… Full Review
March 29, 2019
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Freyda Spira and Peter Parshall
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. 192 pp.; 169 color ills. Paperback $35.00 (9781588395856)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, January 26–May 22, 2016
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, January 26–May 22, 2016
In 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art marked the centennial of its Department of Prints (later the Department of Prints and Photographs and today the Department of Drawings and Prints) with an exhibition and publication celebrating the museum’s first two print curators, William M. Ivins (1881–1961) and A. Hyatt Mayor (1901–1980). Familiar to print specialists for their respective authorship of the seminal studies Prints and Visual Communication (1953) and Prints and People: A Social History of Printed Pictures (1971), Ivins and Mayor spent a combined fifty years developing the Met’s initial print holdings of a few thousand works into a… Full Review
March 27, 2019
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Mia L. Bagneris
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017. 272 pp.; 68 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9781526120458)
On August 7, 1981, a senior staff member at the Yale Center for British Art wrote an internal memorandum recommending the sale of ten works in the center’s collection by a little-known artist named Agostino Brunias (ca. 1730–1796). Among the reasons he gave were that the Italian-born Brunias “is not English and very, very minor,” and that his paintings, which depict scenes of life in the British West Indies, bore only “tenuous connection with British Studies.” Suggesting that the works might be of interest to Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center or Peabody Museum of Natural History, he concluded, “I do not… Full Review
March 22, 2019
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Sharon Hecker
Oakland: University of California Press, 2017. 328 pp.; 20 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520294486)
Sharon Hecker’s recent monograph on Medardo Rosso (1858–1928) situates this all-too-often marginalized sculptor within the field of the international avant-garde. Often considered as either a slightly mysterious three-dimensional Impressionist or as an inspiration to movements such as Futurism, Rosso has rarely received sustained attention as a figure in his own right. Hecker makes a significant effort to counter this by placing him at the center of a key modernist concern: the tension (as suggested by the book’s title) between the momentary and the monumental. “A moment’s monument” was the description given to Rosso’s sculpture Ecce Puer (Behold the Child, 1906)… Full Review
March 20, 2019
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Kim Conaty, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven and New York: Yale University Press and Whitney Museum of American Art, 2018. 160 pp.; 115 color ills.; 15 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300234978)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, June 8–November 25, 2018
On the top floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Mary Corse’s (b. 1945) expansive canvas Untitled (White Inner Band) captivated with a subdued brilliance. Its pale vertical bands shimmered in response to ambient light. A seasoned art viewer new to the experience of Corse’s work could draw comparisons with analogous minimal painters like Agnes Martin or Robert Ryman. However, such comparisons dissolved as the vertical bands appeared and disappeared relative to one’s mobility. An awareness of light as a material presence and its ties to subjective experience came to mind instead. This is the essence of Corse’s impressive… Full Review
March 19, 2019
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Diana Gisolfi
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 352 pp.; 293 color ills.; 54 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300225822)
In recent years, scholarship has shown a growing interest in the art and person of Paolo Caliari, called Veronese (1528–1588), who for too long was considered essentially a mere decorator, a lesser figure compared to the more intellectual Titian and the volcanic Jacopo Tintoretto. Between 2013 and 2014, a few international exhibitions (Sarasota, London, Verona) honored this artist from Verona. Recent publications have likewise begun to change our perception of the master, especially the previously neglected aspects of his production and working practice. It is within this new context of interest in the artist that the present book should be… Full Review
March 13, 2019
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Paul Stephenson
Onassis Series in Hellenic Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 92 b/w ills. Hardcover $82.00 (9780190209063)
The idea of writing a “cultural biography” of the Serpent Column is brilliant. Over the 2500 years of its history, this monument stood in the center of two of the most significant environments of the ancient world: the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi and the Circus of Constantinople. It witnessed their transformations, and it underwent important alterations itself, both in its physical appearance and in the meanings associated to it. After a first chapter dealing with the history of its discovery and tentative reconstructions, seven more chapters narrate the life of the column, dealing with its different locations (§ 1… Full Review
March 11, 2019
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Craig Clunas
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. 320 pp.; 200 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Hardcover $60.00 (9780691171937)
Craig Clunas opens the introduction to Chinese Painting and Its Audiences with a monumental understatement: it is a book that some might feel has “a narrow focus, but it has somewhat wider aims” (1). The published form of the 2012 A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, Chinese Painting and Its Audiences is neatly structured into six chapters. It starts with an introductory “Beginning and Ending” that confronts the reader with the prospect that Chinese painting, as an ontological entity, is a fabrication, a subjective construction determined by an outsider’s perspective, and follows with chapters centered on five internal… Full Review
March 8, 2019
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Mey-Yen Moriuchi
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2018. 180 pp.; 31 color ills.; 29 b/w ills. Cloth $99.95 (9780271079073)
Of the principal areas of study constituting Latin American art history, i.e., ancient, colonial, modern, and contemporary, the nineteenth century remains under examined. Situated precariously between the Spanish viceregal period and modern nationhood, this turbulent yet pivotal stage in Mexico’s history has lagged in terms of scholarly attention, particularly in art history. Art historians in Mexico, such as Jean Charlot, Justino Fernández, Fausto Ramírez Rojas, Esther Acevedo, and Angélica Velázquez Guadarrama have done much of the heavy lifting in terms of writing about art in nineteenth-century Mexico. Meanwhile, in the United States, Stacie G. Widdifield has led the way, with… Full Review
March 7, 2019
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