New Books: Recently Posted at caa.reviews

Posted in books, catalogues, reviews by Editor on August 26, 2009

caa.reviews recently posted reviews of two late-eighteenth-century books. Brief excerpts are provided below; for the full texts, click on the picture of each book.

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Watkin.ThomasHope_smPhilip Hewat-Jaboor and David Watkin, eds. Thomas Hope: Regency Designer, exhibition catalogue (New York and New Haven: Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture and Yale University Press, 2008). 520 pages; 420 color ills.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $100.00 (9780300124163).

Reviewed by Christopher Drew Armstrong, Assistant Professor, Department of History of Art & Architecture, University of Pittsburgh; posted 18 August 2009

An unparalleled glimpse into Hope’s world and by extension into the world of design and elite culture after the French Revolution was provided last fall by the exhibition Thomas Hope: Regency Designer, organized by the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture. The effort that went into assembling objects for the exhibition and texts for the accompanying catalogue was fully justified by the results, yielding the most complete panorama of Hope’s activities as a designer and collector since the contents of his residences were dispersed. Simultaneous to John Soane’s experiments in his house at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and Percier’s and Fontaine’s renovation of La Malmaison, Hope was borrowing from the same sources and exploring similar ideas. Though his houses have been demolished, it is now possible to imagine the wealth of innovation that went into their planning and to appreciate how Hope’s interiors and furnishings were used to showcase his aspirations and ideals.

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VisTheRevHubertus Kohle and Rolf Reichardt, Visualizing the Revolution: Politics and Pictorial Arts in Late Eighteenth-Century France (London: Reaktion Books, 2008), 240 pages, 30 color ills.; 156 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9781861893123)

Reviewed by Nina Dubin, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago; posted 19 August 2009

Among the strengths of Visualizing the Revolution: Politics and Pictorial Arts in Late Eighteenth-Century France—an ambitious new study co-authored by the historian Rolf Reichardt and the art historian Hubertus Kohle—is the compelling case it makes that prints comprised the art form par excellence of the age, less because of their representational force than because of the special capacity of the medium to embody the “message” of the Revolution. Published in newspapers, sold by street vendors, pirated, re-worked and re-circulated, printed pictures—particularly mass-produced etchings—asserted the new-found and irrepressible power of the many over the few, of the multiple over the singular. Prints, more than illustrating the events of the Revolution, decisively shaped them. . . .

While the authors are to be commended for the wealth of visual evidence they present, equally noteworthy is the book’s underlying provocation to the art historian: namely, that to prioritize the individual aesthetic achievement of works of Revolutionary art is to lose sight of their participation in a collective political project.

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