Art and Architecture

Rembrandt, Judaism, and the Dutch Golden Age

November 24, 2006
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Rembrandt, Judaism, and the Dutch Golden Age

As part of their 400th anniversary celebration of the birth of Rembrandt, the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam will host “The Jewish Rembrandt“—a collection of the Dutch artist’s works that deal with Jewish themes. Rembrandt is popularly thought of as having a special affinity for Judaism, but this exhibition promises a more critical and in depth look at the impact of Jewish religion and culture on his work than ever before. The exhibit runs until February 4, 2007. But even if you can’t make it to Amsterdam, Steven Nadler’s new book Rembrandt’s Jews is a revealing exploration of Rembrandt’s work along similar lines. In his elegantly written and engrossing tour of Jewish Amsterdam, Steven Nadler tells us the stories of the artist’s portraits of Jewish sitters, of his mundane and often contentious dealings with his neighbors in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, and of the tolerant setting that city provided for Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews fleeing persecution in other parts of Europe. Through his detailed analysis of the Rembrant’s work, as well as that of several other prominant Dutch painters, Nadler is able to build a deep and complex account of the remarkable relationship between Dutch and Jewish cultures in . . .

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Press Release: Schapiro, Romanesque Architectural Sculpture

November 24, 2006
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Press Release: Schapiro, Romanesque Architectural Sculpture

A towering figure in twentieth-century intellectual life art historian Meyer Schapiro (1904-96) profoundly influenced the study of everything from twelfth-century sculpture to modern painting. He made his name as a young scholar, though, by helping to define and elevate the singular style of art known as Romanesque, and it was to the Romanesque that he returned when he was invited to deliver the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1967. In a labor of love, Linda Seidel—who attended Schapiro’s Norton lectures and came to know him through her own work—spent years transcribing and editing the originals to produce this long-awaited, handsomely illustrated volume. Combined with Seidel’s illuminating introduction placing these works in context and telling the story of their long journey to publication, Meyer Schapiro’s Norton lectures provide exciting new paths toward comprehending the depth and breadth of the master scholar’s original vision. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Alofsin, When Buildings Speak

November 24, 2006
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Press Release: Alofsin, When Buildings Speak

How can a building speak? Look, through Anthony Alofsin’s eyes at Budapest’s Royal Postal Savings Bank: its technologically advanced construction says modern no less clearly than the spoken word, while its references to Hungarian folk culture proclaim its historical roots. Revealing how such visual languages can express the conflicted identities of entire nations, in When Buildings Speak Alofsin leads readers on a lavishly illustrated tour of overlooked architectural brilliance. Featuring more than 150 color photographs specially commissioned to highlight the neglected yet rich architecture of Central Europe—from national theaters and crematoria to apartment buildings and warehouses—this study offers a new understanding of how people in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its successor states expressed their cultural and political autonomy by tapping into the limitless possibilities of art and architectural styles. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: D’Amato, Barrio

November 20, 2006
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Review: D’Amato, Barrio

A recent review in the Chicago Sun-Times calls Paul D’Amato’s Barrio: Photographs from Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village “a beautiful and troubling warts-and-all portrait of the city’s largest Mexican-American neighborhoods.” Chronicling the 14 years he has spent photographing Chicago’s “Latino strongholds,” Mr. D’Amato’s work is a profoundly empathetic vision of the human struggles of a community that might otherwise remain hidden behind cultural and economic barriers. Kevin Nance, reviewing D’Amato’s book for the Sun-Times seems to agree when he writes: Certainly few of the images here are likely to make their way into tourist brochures; Pilsen, the book’s ground zero, is shown as a gritty landscape of littered streets, dilapidated buildings, gang violence and spray-paint artists. At its best, however, the book transcends politics, offering images of the human condition—especially those having to do with relationships between the sexes—that penetrate the surfaces of ethnicity, class and geography. With a foreword by author Stuart Dybek that places D’Amato’s work in the context of the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods that Dybek has elsewhere captured so memorably, Barrio offers a penetrating, evocative, and overall streetwise portrait of two iconic and enduring Hispanic neighborhoods. . . .

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Meryle Secrest honored by the White House

November 17, 2006
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Meryle Secrest honored by the White House

On November 9, President Bush awarded Meryle Secrest the National Humanities Medal in a ceremony at the White House, one of ten writers and scholars so honored for 2006. Secrest is noted for her biographies of some of the seminal figures of modern art and music including architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and Joseph Duveen—the premier art dealer of the twentieth century. Secrest’s biographies combine her comprehensive and detailed historical research with engaging narrative that reviews in publications like the Economist and New Republic have praised for expertly drawing out the connections between the lives and the art of her subjects. Bringing her readers into intimate contact with the rich history of the arts, Secrest’s work is an invaluable contribution to the scholarly study of modern art. . . .

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Review: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

November 14, 2006
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Review: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

Last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune featured a prominent review of Carl Smith’s new book The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City. Writing for the Tribune, Lois Wille—a journalist and historian of Chicago—praises Smith’s account of Daniel Burnham’s sweeping plans to remake the city of Chicago. Wille writes: The story of Burnham’s plan has been told many times before but never in a more appealing or succinct style than in Carl Smith’s modest little book.… What sets this book apart from other Burnham histories is Smith’s attention to the filthy, miserable, 19th century city that repelled and motivated Burnham, and the extraordinary promotional effort led by the Commercial Club of Chicago, that sold his plan to the public. Delivering a comprehensive examination of the most influential document in the history of urban planning, Smith’s insightful book is an indispensable addition to our understanding of Chicago, Daniel Burnham, and the emergence of the modern city. Lois Wille is the author of Forever Open, Clear, and Free: The Struggle for Chicago’s Lakefront. . . .

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Press Release: Halpern, Norman Rockwell

November 13, 2006
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Press Release: Halpern, Norman Rockwell

One of the most popular artists of the last century, Norman Rockwell specialized in warm and humorous scenes of routine small-town life. His countless illustrations of ordinary middleclass Americans for the Saturday Evening Post are still among the most indelible images in all of postwar art. Today, opinions of Rockwell vary from uncritical admiration to sneering contempt, but those who love him and those who dismiss him do seem to agree on one thing: his art embodies a distinctively American style of innocence. Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence reimagines Rockwell as an American Freud, or a canny and remorseless diagnostician of the purity in which we bathe ourselves. Richard Halpern here argues that Rockwell’s works might look like innocent portraits of everyday life, but if you look a little bit closer and probe beneath their banal veneer, you’ll find a lot of them teeming with perverse acts of voyeurism and sexual desire. For Halpern, Rockwell is an artist who we have not yet dared to see for the complex creature that he is: a wholesome pervert, a knowing innocent, a kitschy genius, and an unexpected influence on more contemporary visual artists such as John Currin, Frank Moore, and Eric . . .

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Meyer Schapiro: The Norton Lectures

November 2, 2006
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Meyer Schapiro: The Norton Lectures

The October 30 issue of the New Republic features an article about several recent additions to the prodigious body of published works by the influential art historian Meyer Schapiro (1904-96), including his Romanesque Architectural Sculpture: The Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series, edited by Linda Seidel. Though renowned for his critical essays on nineteenth- and twentieth-century painting, Schapiro also played a decisive role in defining the style of architecture known as the Romanesque. Schapiro has remained a highly esteemed yet mysterious figure of academia, widely known, but little read. However, as Jed Perl’s New Republic article notes, this new book promises to change that. The book collects Shapiro’s lectures on Romanesque Architecture given in 1967 for the Norton Lecture Series at Harvard; lectures which have been acclaimed throughout academia for their verve and freshness. Perl writes that much like the works of art they take as their subject, “the pleasure of Schapiro’s lectures, though they were given in the late-modern 1960’s, are what might be called early modern pleasures: the pleasures of close looking, and of the search for unexpected ways to express the most self-evidently human experiences.… Linda Siedel, in editing the Norton Lectures, has preserved the movement of Schapiro’s . . .

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Clement Greenberg: A Critical History

October 26, 2006
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Clement Greenberg: A Critical History

The October 16 issue of the Nation features a five-page article by Barry Schwabsky on the work of former Nation contributor Clement Greenberg—art critic, historian, and the central subject of Caroline Jones’ recent book Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses. The Nation article includes an interesting retrospective of the impact of Greenberg’s work on the world of contemporary art while hailing Jones’ book as the best critical history of Greenberg’s writing available, trumping several recent biographies. Schwabsky recommends: Readers who want a better understanding of what Greenberg wrote and why, and above all why what he wrote was so significant, would in any case be better off if they ignored biographies and did the harder but more rewarding work of reading Jones’ dense, indeed sometimes maddeningly verbose, “critical history.” Like Jones leans on biographical material … along with Greenberg’s own writings as well as reactions to and (and against) Greenberg by the art critics and historians that followed in his footsteps; but she brings to all this an analytical intensity, an almost ferocious determination to dig into the text, that makes the biographers’ declarative flatness seem dull by comparison. The hundred pages . . .

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Interview with Joseph Leo Koerner

October 4, 2006
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Interview with Joseph Leo Koerner

Mark Thwaite has an excellent interview with our author, Joseph Leo Koerner, at the online book review site, ReadySteadyBook. One of the most visible scholars of German art, Koerner discusses his work, including two of his books The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art and The Reformation of the Image. From the interview: MT: Your first book was The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art. What was it that was so uniquely important about that “moment”? What does the creation of self-portraits tell us about society and the individuals that make it up? JK: Oddly, if you go back to the moment—the actual historical instant—when the first modern self-portraitist looked at himself and decided to depict what he saw, you find it was not a particularly “momentous” event, at least not for a history of the “self” or of modern subjectivity. Around 1490, the young Albrecht Dürer sketched his hands and fingers because they posed a special challenge to him as a budding draughtsman, and because they were simply there: available models he could pose as he wished. Dürer’s first true nature study is in fact a drawing he did of his left hand just lying there. It’s . . .

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