Book Review │Charleston Fancy by Witold Rybczynski

When I was an undergraduate at Rutgers University studying art history, one of my all time favorite books that I continually went back to and even now, will pick up from time to time were any of Peter Mayle’s Provence series. What I loved so much about them was that I was learning about life in Provence as an ex-pat through the life of someone who clearly loved Provence. I was learning through someone else’s passion and in so many ways that is the best way to learn because they will never cease to be an endless treasure trove of information about their subject.

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Charleston, South Carolina

I felt the same concept of learning through someone else’s passion with Witold Rybczynski’s Charleston Fancy. Instead of Provence, we are emersed in the world of Charleston, South Carolina, and its beautiful architecture. Charleston is a town with roots that go back to a time before the 1700’s when it was first occupied by British colonists who had landed on the Carolina coast. The city grew and has attracted varieties of people to its warm climate and abundance of different architecture that is notable throughout the town.

Rybczynski opens the world of Charleston, South Carolina up to his readers as we are informed about the various types of architecture that are present and the different types of people and characters we meet along the way. The novel brings Charleston to life through small vignettes and glimpses of Rybczynski’s cast of characters and homeowners as we are further exposed to the varied world of Charleston and its architecture.

Southern Architecture

When I think of Charleston, my mind immediately wonders off to verandas, wicker chairs and huge porches that are all sprinkled along tree-lined streets with brick sidewalks and beautiful masonry. While some parts of the south are like this, Rybczynski focuses his book on the surprises that Charleston has to bring us. From the small houses that hide beautiful courtyard verandas to Byzantine and Moorish beauties that are tucked away– he takes us on a ride through the surprises and beauty that is the prevailing sense of creativity that abounds throughout Charleston’s homes and architecture. It is detailed and colorful in his approach to bringing the world of Charleston, South Carolina for those of us who aren’t familiar.

Book Information

Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City by Witold Rybczynski will be released on May 28, 2019, from Yale University Press with ISBN 9780300229073. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review │ Manet and Modern Beauty

The following volume corresponds to exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago which runs from May 26 to September 8, 2019 and the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center which runs from October 8, 2019, to January 12, 2020.

manet

Unlike most Manet exhibitions, the curators of Manet and Modern Beauty chose to focus their show on a less popular period within Manet’s life: his later years. This is a period for the artist that is largely overlooked because it is such a shift from what Manet is so well-known for. The shift in his work is often attributed to his decline in health and his growing interest in fashion and women painters, namely Berthe Morisot, a woman created with being a source of inspiration for this period of his work.

Weaving together gorgeous reproductions of Manet’s works with essays and correspondence from the artist during this period in his life, Allan, Beeny, and Groom create an in-depth view of Manet and his later works. While the writing is academic in tone, the inclusion of the personal correspondence really illuminates where the artist was during this part of his life and how it could relate to why there is such a shift in his work from previous paintings.

As viewers, we get to see the lush social world that Manet found himself in during the 1870’s and 1880’s and in many ways, we can also uncover his commentary on this world that he lived in during his later years. With nearly 300 beautiful reproductions, Manet and Modern Beauty stands as a gorgeous literacy and artistic work that brings to life the later years of Eugène Manet.

Manet and Modern Beauty: The Artist’s Last Years edited by Scott Allan, Emily A. Beeny, and Gloria Groom will be released on June 25, 2019 from Getty Publishing with ISBN 9781606066041. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was shared in exchange for a review.

Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime – A Review

missingKevin Nance of Booklist describes Houpt’s book through the following angle, “when houses like Sotheby’s trumpet their sales records – $104 million for a Picasso! – what’s a self-respecting art thief to do? In this brief and lively book, Houpt laments the transformation of art into an international commodity and sketches a series of quick portraits of famous latter-day art thieves and the intrepid detectives who try to catch them. In a few cases, Houpt has already been outpaced by events. Munch’s The Scream, stolen from a Norwegian museum in 2004, was recently recovered, and the Picasso sales record was eclipsed this year by the sale of a Klimt (once looted by the Nazis) for a reported $135 million.”

The Hypothesis

Auction house pricing has been a big complaint of many in the art world over the years. It is clear that such enormous prices for famous works by such well-knowns as Picasso only drive up the temptation behind nabbing one of these high-priced canvases for claim in a art thief’s private collection. Taking this idea, Houst takes the reader into the dark underbelly of one of the world’s largest markets and shows the reader just how underhanded some of the worst crimes in art have come to be.

From Munch’s The Scream to the Henry Moore Sculpture

Nothing will illicit intrigue more than when a largely famous work of art goes missing. Houpt does not miss a beat of the action in Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime as the author delves into heavy detail over such infamous thefts as the theft of The Scream and the even more bizarre theft of the nearly two-ton bronze sculpture by Henry Moore. Using photographs, illustrations and case studies, Houpt brings these crimes against art to life while still keeping the reader intrigued to learn just how people were able to pull off these brazen acts.

Large-Scale Thefts: From the Nazis to Iraq

What was most intriguing about this book was the coverage that Houpt included on much more large scale operations such as the Nazis’ art theft during World War II and the acts of looting that nearly crumbled the Iraqi Museum and outlaying institutions. If the Rape of Europa piqued your interest, then Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime will take it even another step.

Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime by Simon Houpt is available for purchase with ISBN 1897330448 through Black Walnut/Madison Press.

El Greco to Velazquez – A Review

The Spanish court, specifically under the reign of Phillip IIIspain, is a period in art history where the mature El Greco and the young Velazquez flourished.The court of Phillip III “ushered in a time of elaborate celebrations and religious festivals, a major expansion in new building, and an unprecedented rage for art collecting in the Spanish court. Spain’s art became more naturalistic and expressive; the royal portraits are masterpieces of detailed elegance, and the religious figures have reality and solidity new to the genre,” according to the School Library Journal.

Scholarly Essays

In conjunction with the lavish world of Spanish court portraiture, Bass juxtaposes her rich subject matter with scholarly essays written by some of the nation’s leading art historians. Baer (senior curator, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and Schroth (senior curator, Nash Museum, Duke Univ.) lend their extensive knowledge on Spanish portraiture to the catalog with their thought-provoking and well-written essays on the subject. In addition to the inclusion of better-known names such as El Greco and Velazquez, Bass and her contributors also include lesser known artists who lived and worked in the court of Phillip III.

Foundation of the Spanish Style

Through the essays, the reader sees how the naturalistic and dramatic style of paitning would slowly come to define Spanish court portraiture under Phillip III and would go on to lend to the new innovations that would come in the future after El Greco and Velazquez. The history is rich and deep in the Spanish mindset and lends to the reader a fascinating journey of the evolution of court portraiture under each new reign.

Imagery

Bass includes over 170 color plates that are so well-lit and reproduced that the exhibition catalog without the essays would serve as a great way to understand the art of the court of Phillip III with just the imagery alone.

Crucial Artistic Development

As editor Ronni Baer notes in the description of the catalog, Phillip III “actually presided over an era of crucial artistic development in Spain. His reign was a time of cultural and political vitality for the Spanish monarchy, as the king and his court, having successfully maintained a peaceful foreign policy in Europe (the “Pax Hispanica”), ushered in a style of grandeur where fabulous gala celebrations, building campaigns, picture collecting, recreation and travel were the order of the day.

Accordingly, the art of this period flourished, witnessing the birth of a naturalistic style that was variously reflected in a new attention to detail and spatiality in court portraiture, the thriving of still life, the humanizing of saints and the development of polychrome sculpture.” Such a description only teases the reader as to what will unfold while reading Bass’ catalog.

El Greco to Velazquez by Laura Bass is available for purchase through MFA Publications with ISBN 0878467262.

On Carrington – A Life: An Overview of Gretchen Gerzina’s Dora Carrington Biography

carringtonWhen the British painter, Dora Carrington is discussed, the name Lytton Strachey is not too far behind. Carrington was associated with the Bloomsbury Group, a circle of artists who worked near Bloomsbury in London during the first half of the twentieth century. Its famous roster not only included Strachey, but Virginia Woolf as well.

During her lifetime, Carrington was not a well-known artist, and rarely exhibited any of her work. She did, however, work at the Omega workshop for a short time. It would not be until the 1970’s that a renewed interest in her work would begin.

In many ways she was a woman ahead of her time. She bobbed her hair, wore a mix of men and women’s clothing and despite having later married, she kept residence with the love of her life, who just happened to be gay. Either way, Carrington epitomized the Bohemian lifestyle that was very much a taboo during the time in which she lived.

Lytton Strachey

Strachey was a homosexual writer who Carrington falls completely in love with early on in her life. Gerzina heavily documents these feelings in the biography through a reproduction of sketches and letters that were sent between the two. Gerzina’s biography heavily focuses on this relationship more so than Carrington as a painter. Though, such an approach is interesting, it robs from art history as readers have to look towards other sources to learn more about Carrington the painter and not Carrington, the admirer of a homosexual artist.

Marriage to Ralph Partridge and the Affairs

There is no doubt that Partridge loved Carrington as Gerzina depicts their relationship with a sort of glow. Partridge would save Carrington from her first suicide attempt while never forgiving himself for failing to come to her aid in her second, fatal attempt. Gerzina also shows another side of Carrington, the one that often dabbled in lesbian affairs of her own while creating strong attachments and attractions to other artists such as Gerald Brenan.

Portrayal of Carrington, the Painter

Despite Gerzina’s approach to the biography, included are several chapters and photo inserts of and on Carrington’s work that help the reader to better understand Carringon as a painter outside of her absurd and often peculiar relationships with fellow artists.

The Movie

Gerzina’s biography was made into a movie entitled Carrington in 1995 and it stared Emma Thompson.

Another book that discuss Bohemia, Bloomsbury and people from Carrington’s circle is Virginia Nicholson’s Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939.

Carrington: A Life by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina is available through purchase online with ISBN 039331328X through W. W. Norton & Company.

Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction: The Early Twentieth Century

cubismPrimitivism is an area within art history that is most famously associated with artist Paul Gauguin. He often traveled to tropical areas such as Tahiti where he believed that he was observing primitive cultures that were untouched by the modern world. Largely, this was not the case, but in turn, Gauguin along with many artists who followed, began to paint native people in a basic, unassuming way.

Towards the later half of the 19th century and into the 20th century, artists began to form primitivist artist colonies in Germany and France. The fauvists and German expressionists would later follow.

In Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction: The Early Twentieth Century, Perry, Frascina and Harrison begin by focusing the beginning of their catalog on the work of the primitivists and then moving into the works of the cubists and abstractionists, thereby creating a thematic and seamless look at the movement of art from and through the 19th and early 20th century.

Dr. Charles Harrison

Harrison was a professor at The Open University in the United Kingdom. He made many contributions to the humanities and more specifically the arts. He passed away in August of 2009. His full obituary is available through the University’s website.

Francis Frascina

Frascina is a is John Raven Professor of Visual Arts in the Department of American Studies at Keele University in the United Kingdom. According to the University’s website Frascina “founded the Department of Visual Arts at Keele University in 1994 and served as Head of Department from January 1994 to October 1998. He formerly held academic posts in Fine Art at Leeds University and in Art History at the Open University. His research interests include the social history of modern art and modernism and the relationships between art, culture and politics in America since 1945.”

Gill Perry

Perry is the co-chair of the Gender in the Humanities Research Group in the Arts Faculty at Open University in the United Kingdom, and was the Reviews Editor of the journal Art History from 1995 – 2001. Along with her accomplishments with in the University, she has also written several books and catalogs. According to the University’s website, she is also a panel member (Panel 2) of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the main UK funding council for academic research.

Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction: The Early Twentieth Century by Gill Perry, Francis Frascina and Dr. Charles Harrison was first published on May 26, 1993 and is available for purchase through the Yale University Press with ISBN 0300055161.

Picasso Looks at Degas – A Review

picassoArtists will often look at, admire and even borrow from other artists to create their own style and ideas. For Pablo Picasso, this was Edgar Degas. His admiration bordered on near-obsession and even went on to extend to Degas’ personality.

Picasso not only borrowed from the artist that he so admired, but he also took from and reworked some of Degas’ works, including the brothel mono-types that Picasso would acquire during the later years of his artistic career.

Comparing Degas and Picasso

It is evident, by looking at the body of work from both artists, that they both were obsessed with the female figure which they both portray in the form of dancers, singers and prostitutes. Degas tended to favor capturing the female form with the portrayal of ballet dancers and singers. Some of his more famous works include L’etoile and The Singer in Green. Comparatively, Pablo Picasso is more widely associated with works such as Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, a cubist portrayal of the ladies that composed a scene consisting of prostitutes. Some scholars have since made a connection between Picasso’s work and that of the court portraits of Spanish painter, Velazquez.

Degas and Picasso Exhibitions

This exhibition catalog is from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute located in Williamstown, MA which hosted the exhibition that depicted the influence of Edgar Degas on Pablo Picasso. The exhibition lasted from June 13, 2010 until September 12, 2010. It was a joint project between the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Museu Picasso, Barcelona. According to the Clark Institute website, it was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and with the special cooperation of Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte.

About the Author

According to amazon.com, “Elizabeth Cowling is Professor Emeritus of History of Art at Edinburgh University, and an independent scholar and exhibition curator. Richard Kendall is Consultative Curator of Nineteenth-Century Art at the Clark, as well as an independent scholar and exhibition curator. Cécile Godefroy is a researcher at the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte in Madrid. Sarah Lees is Associate Curator of European Art at the Clark. Montse Torras is Exhibitions Coordinator at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona.”

Picasso Looks at Degas by Elizabeth Cowlin, Mr. Richard Kendall, Montse Torras, Sarah Lees and Cecile Godefroy is available for purchase through the Clark Art Institute with ISBN 0300134126. It was originally published on July 13, 2010.