New Titles from The Getty

Posted in books by Editor on September 2, 2011

Elena Phipps, Looking at Textiles: A Guide to Technical Terms (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, January 2012), 112 pages, ISBN: 9781606060803, $18.95.

Textiles have been made and used by every culture throughout history. However diverse—whether an ancient Egyptian mummy wrapping, a Turkish carpet, an Italian velvet, or an American quilt—all textiles have basic elements in common. They are made of fibers, constructed into forms, and patterned and colored in ways that follow certain principles.

Looking at Textiles serves as a guide to the fundamentals of the materials and techniques used to create textiles. The selected technical terms explain what textiles are, how they are made, and what they are made of, and include definitions of terms relating to fibers, dyes, looms and weaving, and patterning processes. The many illustrations, including macro- and microscale photographs of a range of ancient and historic museum textiles, demonstrate the features described in the text.

Elena Phipps was a textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for over thirty years. She has published numerous scholarly works on textile materials, techniques, and culture, including The Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork, 1530–1830 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), which was awarded both the Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Award (College Art Association) and the Mitchell Prize for best exhibition catalogue.

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Johann Joachim Winckelmann, introduction, translation, and commentary by Carol C. Mattusch, Letter and Report on the Discoveries at Herculaneum (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, January 2011), 240 pages, ISBN: 9781606060896, $50.

This new translation brings to light early scientific archaeology and the study of Herculaneum and Pompeii as observed by the erudite and acerbic art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768). His Letter, published in German in 1762, displays his knowledge of geology, ancient literature, and art while offering a scathing critique of the Spanish Bourbon excavations around the Bay of Naples and of the officials involved. He further discusses these topics in his equally controversial Report of 1764.

The introduction describes the context in which these texts were written, identifies various politicians, academics, and collectors, and elucidates topics of particular interest to Winckelmann, from artifacts to local customs to the contents of ancient papyri. The illustrations, particularly those from the Bourbon publication—Le Antichità di Ercolano (1757–92)—illuminate how these monuments influenced contemporary perceptions of the ancient world.

Johann Joachim Winckelmann was a groundbreaking Prussian art historian and author of History of Ancient Art (1764). Carol C. Mattusch is Mathy Professor of Art History at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and author of The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum: Life and Afterlife of a Sculpture Collection (Getty Publications, 2005), which won the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award.

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Lance Mayer and Gay Myers, American Painters on Technique: The Colonial Period to 1860 (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, October 2011), 260 pages, ISBN: 9781606060773, $50.00

This is the first comprehensive study of an important but largely unknown part of the history of American art: the materials and techniques used by American painters. Based on extensive research, including artists’ recipe books, letters, journals, and painting manuals, much previously unpublished, the authors have also drawn on their many years as conservators of paintings for museums and collectors.

Information is provided on the methods of painters such as Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart, Washington Allston, Thomas Sully, Thomas Cole, and William Sidney Mount. Topics include the quest for the “secrets” of the Old Masters; how artists saw their paintings changing over time; the application of “toning” layers; and the evolving self-confidence of American experimenters and innovators.

The book will be of interest to curators, art historians, painters, and conservators and will form the basis for future research on American painting techniques. At a time of discovering new approaches to art history, the story of how paintings were made parallels the better known histories about how styles changed and how paintings were commissioned, exhibited, and sold.

Lance Mayer and Gay Myers work at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut, and as independent conservators.

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