Reviews

Rembrant and Degas

Edgar Degas may be the most contrary of the nineteenth-century French avant-gardists. He exhibited alongside Monet and company but did not call himself an Impressionist. The way he crops his images and works with various mediums, notably pastel and monotype, looks bracingly radical even today, but he told a friend: “I assure you no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result... More »

Art of Late Antiquity

“Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd–7th Century ad,” at the Onassis Cultural Center in New york City, is a scholarly show of small works. The 170 objects on display are, however, remarkably resonant, illuminating an extraordinary period of history, as the nascent religion of Christianity threat- ened the long-established hegemony of classical paganism. Organized by the Onassis... More »

The Tragic Muse

 The Smart Museum at the University of Chicago mounts modest, intelligent shows, using mostly small-scale works to explore some phenomenon in the history of art and ideas. The museum’s current offering, “The Tragic Muse: Art and Emotion, 1700–1900,” addresses the subject of how artists depict and express sorrow and how audiences respond to those images. Of course, sacrifice and suffering are... More »

New-York Historical Society

The venerable New-York Historical Society is celebrating its post-renovation reopening with “Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy,” a stimulating exhibition focused on the cultural priorities that shaped the core collection. Major painters—Benjamin West, Thomas Cole, Eastman Johnson—figure in the fifty-five works on display, but some now lesser-known artists make a... More »

Modeling Grace

One can go to the sculpture of the last two centuries not only to marvel at the techniques these works display but to revel in, be appalled by, mourn and even recognize the sensibilities of their makers and viewers. Both technique and sensibility were revealed, at full strength, in “Modeling Grace: Two Centuries of American Sculpture,” a beautifully presented and ultimately inspiring exhibition... More »

John Haberle

“John Haberle: American Master of Illusion,” at the New Britain Museum of American Art, focuses on the least well-known of a trio of nineteenth-century trompe l’oeil artists. Like his contemporaries William Michael Harnett (1848–92) and John Frederick Peto (1854–1907), Haberle (1856–1933) specialized in a subgenre of still life as stunt verisimilitude. The tradition can be dated back to the... More »

Playing with Pictures

“Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this spring, is the first exhibition to focus on a delightful, previously neglected genre. The nineteenth century was an era of widespread visual literacy. Art exhibitions drew enthusiastic crowds, and celebrated paintings of the day became familiar images, disseminated through mezzotint and, later,... More »

Museo de Arte de Ponce

The Museo de Arte de Ponce in Ponce, Puerto Rico, grew out of the passion of one collector. Inspired by a trip to Europe in 1950, Luis A. Ferré—engineer, pianist, philanthropist and future governor—set about acquiring old master and nineteenth-century art, unfashionable at the time. The Museo, which now has more than 3,000 objects, is currently closed for renovation and expansion. This summer,... More »

Landscapes, East and West

Landscape is the genre that most easily bridges the divide between representation and abstraction: skies and swaths of land can be translated into fields of color. Clouds, water, snow and sunsets have a vitality not necessarily tied to form, and their fluidity appeals to painters who favor free brushwork. But landscapes can also provide ways to connect intimately with specific places, and certain... More »

Athens-Sparta

The glorification of Greece began with the onset, around 330 B.C., of Alexander the Great’s empire-building campaign, after his father, Philip of Macedon, had defeated the city states. The Romans were already appropriating Greek culture in the second century B.C., and various Greek revivals over two millennia have significantly shaped the course of Western civilization. Most of the attention has... More »

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