Category: Reviews

Reviews of books and exhibitions. See the sub-categories ‘Book Reviews’ and ‘Exhibition Reviews’ for more detail.

Review | Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond. Reviewed by Adam Bushby

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond Reviewed by Adam Bushby Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond, State Library of Victoria, Keith Murdoch Gallery, until 1 July 2012. Illustrated manuscripts from Persia, Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India are rare treats in Melbourne. Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond presents a modest but varied collection of manuscripts drawn mostly from the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, covering the period between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. The subject matter is both profane and sacred, familiar secular stories such as One Thousand and One Nights giving way to stories of love and illustrations of the natural world representing the divine. I suspect that most viewers, like me, approach these manuscripts tentatively, because the images they contain appear so different from those one is accustomed to meeting in traditional art histories. For…

Review | In Search of the Picturesque: The Architectural Ruin in Art Reviewed by David R. Marshall

In Search of the Picturesque: The Architectural Ruin in Art Reviewed by David R. Marshall In Search of the Picturesque: The Architectural Ruin in Art at Geelong Art Gallery (closing this Sunday 24th June). I have finally caught up with the exhibition In Search of the Picturesque: The Architectural Ruin in Art at Geelong Art Gallery (closing soon on 24 June) so go quickly if you haven’t done so already. This exhibition showcases Colin Holden’s collection of Old Master prints, to which have been added loans of paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria and Art Gallery of South Australia, prints from the State Library of Victoria, and various items from the Geelong Gallery collection and other sources. In the main room it is good to see some old favourites brought together: from the NGV there is the Panini Cumaean Sibyl…

Exhibition Review | Monumenta 2012: Daniel Buren, Excentrique(s). Reviewed by Victoria Hobday

Monumenta 2012: Daniel Buren, Excentrique(s) Reviewed by Victoria Hobday Monumenta 2012: Daniel Buren, Excentrique(s). Paris, Grand Palais, 10 May–21 June 2012. Each year an artist of international stature is invited to create a work for the hugely successful Monumenta installation project in the Grand Palais in Paris. The Grand Palais is an enormous space 45 metres high and covering 13,500 square metres. Last year it was the turn of Anish Kapoor, who created Leviathan, an enormous inflated aubergine-coloured curved form that fully occupied the space. Its organic curves, suggesting some overgrown vegetable, contrasted with, while complementing, the greenhouse-like form of the Grand Palais (Figs. 1–4). Its interior came as a breathtaking surprise. After being ushered in through a revolving door one entered an intimate space, surrounded by the womb-like inversion of the outside shape and where light from the outside…

Review | Katherine Wentworth Rinne, ‘The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City’. Reviewed by John Weretka

Katherine Wentworth Rinne, ‘The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City’, 2010 John Weretka Katherine Wentworth Rinne, The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010 (ISBN 978-0-3000-15530-3) Katherine Wentworth Rinne’s recent book on the fountains of Rome is premised on a simple but, as it turns out, pressing question: how much do we really know about the fountains of Rome? Since her work, the answer must surely now be ‘considerably more’ but, as her work has clearly demonstrated, these most familiar of public monuments, peppered throughout the city, have remained ill understood in their topographic and urbanistic contexts. The fruit of the author’s four-month-long walk around Rome and an academic background in architecture and urban design, this book makes an important contribution to our…

Exhibition Review | Neon: Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue at La Maison Rouge Paris -Victoria Hobday

Neon: Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue La Maison Rouge Paris, 17 February–20 May 2012 Review by Victoria Hobday Neon has a long association with the streets, with commercial culture and with Paris. In 1902 Georges Claude, one of the founders of the company Air Liquide, discovered that the process of extracting gases such as helium and oxygen from air left behind a number of rare gases. Amongst these gases was neon and argon that when they are contained in a vacuum and an electric current is passed through them produces a glowing red and electric blue light respectively. The first neon sign was erected on the rooftop of a building on the boulevard Champs-Elysées in 1912 and spelt out the word ‘Cinzano’ the first of many signs to illuminate the streets of Paris. The lights attracted photographers in the…

Review | Franco Mormando, ‘Bernini: His Life and His Rome’. Reviewed by John Weretka

Franco Mormando, Bernini: His Life and His Rome, 2011 John Weretka Franco Mormando, Bernini: His Life and His Rome, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2011 (ISBN-13 978-0-226-53852-2). Surprising as it may be, in a world awash with biographies of his somewhat older contemporary, Caravaggio, Bernini has all too frequently been overlooked in the traditional life-and-works genre. After filling the better part of half a century with a torrent of works in almost all media and for almost all occasions, the employee of a succession of popes and a leading figure in shaping the look of Rome during its seventeenth-century Golden Age, Bernini passed into eternity almost unnoticed: as Franco Mormando notes, we know reasonably little about the artist’s death and funeral exequies from contemporary notices, all the more surprising given the sumptuousness of the similar events to which he contributed during his own life.…

Exhibition Review | Guercino: A Passion for Drawing – The Collections of Sir Denis Mahon and the Ashmolean Museum by David Packwood

Guercino: A Passion for Drawing – The Collections of Sir Denis Mahon and the Ashmolean Museum Ashmoleon Museum, Oxford, 11th February 2012 to 15th April 2012 Reviewed by David Packwood Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, better known as Guercino (1591-1666) because of his squint, was one of the most prolific draughtsmen of the seicento. Many of his drawings survive, attesting to his industry, commitment and unwavering belief in his art. Born in Cento—mid way between Bologna and Ferrara—the biographers say that he drew from the age of six. Beckoned by the flourishing Carracci academy in Bologna, Guercino went there to study their art, but had the confidence to set up shop on his own. With the election of a Bolognese pope from the Ludovisi family in 1621, Guercino found artists from that region favoured, and so he graduated to painting ceilings of palaces…

Exhibition Review | ‘Portrait of a Lady: Sir John Longstaff’, Shepparton Art Museum by Caroline Jordan

 Longstaff’s Ladies ‘Portrait of a Lady: Sir John Longstaff’, Shepparton Art Museum, 18 February—22 April 2012. Curated by Susan Gillberg. Reviewed by Caroline Jordan John Longstaff (1861–1941) was a tall poppy in the Australian art world of the early twentieth century. The boy from Clunes, an historic little mining town near Ballarat, won the inaugural National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship for his affecting narrative painting of a young wife reeling in shock on hearing of the death of her miner husband in Breaking the News (1887, Art Gallery of Western Australia) (Fig. 1). This early success set the tone for a stellar international career.  Longstaff was a successful exhibitor where it really mattered—in the Salons of London and Paris—and was five times Archibald Prize winner at home. Longstaff was knighted in 1928 and in 1936 he co-founded the Art Gallery…

Review | Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists by David R. Marshall

Thoughts on Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists David R. Marshall Alain de Botton’s new book is of interest because it directly addresses an issue important for atheistic art historians: if religion is bad, why was the art it produced so good? The usual answer is either (a) that religion is irrelevant to what really matters in such art—it embodies the individuals that created it, rather than the institutions that sponsored it— or (b) it is all a matter of history and so the question is beside the point. The first answer makes particular sense to those whose personal experience is that good things come about in spite of institutions, not because of them. De Botton takes the opposite tack: that it is a given that intellectual bases of religions are nonsense—myths left over from times of ignorance—but we should…

Review | Raffaello incontra Raffaello, Palazzo Barberini, Rome – Monique-Louise Webber

Exhibition Review Raffaello incontra Raffaello. Il Ritratto di giovane del Museo Thyssen Bornemisza e la Fornarina Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, 3 November 2011 – 29 January 2012 Reviewed by Monique-Louise Webber Aptly described as a ‘piccola mostra’ or ‘little exhibition’ in the wall text, Raffaello Incontra Raffaello, at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome (closed 29 January) invites reflection upon the nature of Raphael’s portraiture, and our response to it, through the comparison of two works. These are Portrait of a Young Man (c.1515) (Fig. 1), which has been attributed jointly to Raphael and an unknown assistant, and La Fornarina (1520) (Fig. 2). The juxtaposition of these works—the former owned by the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid and the latter by the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica—was made possible by the temporary exchange of Tintoretto’s…

Exhibition Review: Gabriel Metsu – National Gallery of Art, Washington by John Weretka

Exhibition Review Gabriel Metsu  1629–1667 National Gallery of Art, Washington April 17 – July 24 2011 Reviewed by John Weretka Difficult as this is to believe for a painter of his significance, this is only the second comprehensive exhibition of Gabriel Metsu’s work, the last having occurred in 1966. Although confined to just two rooms in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and exhibiting almost forty of the painter’s panels, this show nonetheless makes a significant contribution to the study of Metsu, a painter whose works are confined largely to two decades (the 1650s and 1660s) and number scarcely over 130. The first room of the exhibition is largely, though not wholly, dedicated to the genre works of the 1650s and the second to domestic interiors popularised by Vermeer that occupied Metsu increasingly in the…

John Weretka – Review: Pastel Portraits: Images of Eighteenth Century Europe. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 17 May 2011 – 14 August 2011

Exhibition Review Pastel Portraits: Images of Eighteenth Century Europe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 17 May 2011 – 14 August 2011 Reviewed by John Weretka The eighteenth-century pastel portrait is the subject of a compact show of about forty images from 1711–1801 being hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (17 May 17–18 August 2011).  Too often derided as a minor art, placing it on a level with other domestic entertainments such as the silhouette, pastel is revealed in this show as a highly nuanced, delicate and beautiful art form that in a sense has suffered by being too closely allied to the tastes of its own time.  In fact, as the inclusion of pastels by artists working elsewhere in oils shows, pastel was a worthy subject of attention for artists who would otherwise make themselves known…

Exhibition Review: Caroline Jordan: Eugene von Guérard: Nature Revealed, at the National Gallery of Victoria

Exhibition Review ‘Terribly true to nature’: A review of Eugene von Guérard: Nature Revealed Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, until 7 August 2011, followed by Brisbane and Canberra Reviewed by Caroline Jordan One of the big clichés of Australian art is that the first generation of landscape painters saw the landscape ‘through European eyes’. Fred McCubbin wrote in the 1890s that titans such as John Glover and Eugene von Guérard of the 1850s and 60s ‘ could not see the blue-green of the wattle… etc’. This was largely self-promotion on the part of McCubbin and his Australian-born Impressionist mates, artists of an up-and-coming generation who had been trained by von Guérard at the National Gallery School in the 1870s. As these Young Turks saw it, it fell to them to strip off the Old World blinkers and show the New…

Exhibition Review: Manet, the Man who Invented Modernity, Paris Musee D’Orsay – Victoria Hobday

Exhibition Review Manet, the Man who Invented Modernity Paris, Musée D’Orsay, 5 April – 17 July 2011 Reviewed by Victoria Hobday Spring weather has at last come to Paris and the Musée d’Orsay, on the banks of the Seine, is exhibiting one of France’s best-loved artists to welcome the season. Manet: The Man Who Invented Modernity, promises a fresh look at the work of this central artist of the late nineteenth century. The choice of a spring exhibition sits well with the vibrant palette and breezy brushwork of Manet. With the staging of the exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay or ‘Impressionism central’ many would indeed say that it is a return to the fold for the great Impressionist artist … mais non, non, non! As any student of  ‘Art History 101- From the Pyramids to Picasso’ thought they knew, Manet…

Exhibition Review: Lorenzo Lotto, Rome Scuderie del Quirinale, until 12 June. David R. Marshall

Exhibition Review Lorenzo Lotto Rome Scuderie del Quirinale, until 12 June Reviewed by David R. Marshall The last big Lotto show was in 1998, but I suspect this one doesn’t quite match it. The illustrations to the introductory essays in the catalogue indicate the ones that got away. But even so, this is an impressive exhibition, mainly for the altarpieces. For those who do not know the Scuderie, it is the old papal stables on Piazza del Quirinale. It has two long and wide floors that once housed horses. It is one of the best Roman venues, as these spaces are roomy and flexible, although the transition between levels can be awkward. In this case the lower floor is devoted to large altarpieces. These are mounted above altar-table like structures on a plinth, which sets them at a good height…