Genuine insights into Northern Renaissance painting, mixed with minutiae and impenetrable philosophizing. (b&w...



Not exactly art history, not exactly critical analysis, but a rambling meditation on the aesthetics, materials, and purposes of Northern Renaissance oil paintings.

Artist and writer Albus veers between sparkling observations, curious historical detail, and vapid pontifications on artistic genius, art criticism, and life in general. When she stands before specific canvasses and points out their most striking features, her comments are unexpected and illuminating: a three-page summary of van Eyck’s “Madonna of Chancellor Rolin,” for example, revels in every detail of the painting’s miniature world (cherishing the “tiny people” who stroll “along the winding path between the vineyards up to the wood on the hill, or chat to a neighbor under the lime-tree in a suburban square”). Art viewers in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance were trained to find innumerable layers of symbolism in visual images, and Albus provides leisurely, medieval-style explications of allegorical elements (including an explanation of the mysterious magpies in the “Madonna” that manages to be both playful and scrupulously researched). A discussion of a still life by Georg Flegel, a later follower of the school of van Eyck, unpacks the meaning of the elements it combines—“A glass of wine, a clay pipe, a roll of tobacco with a little pile alongside, a sheet of paper, a burning fuse, and two strawberries”—wandering over the history of smoking, the botanical and mythological significance of strawberries, the theory of the four humors, and the development of glass-blowing. Unfortunately, however, the author feels compelled to interrupt herself with mechanical attacks on “theory” in art criticism, accompanying her rants with grand-sounding but meaningless abstractions like “Nothing living can absolutize itself in the flowing stream of time without drowning in it as a corpse of illusion.” Still, the final chapter, which catalogues the thrillingly exotic and expensive materials (malachite, azure) used as pigments during the Renaissance, offers some thrills to make up for the pronouncements that bog down the work.

Genuine insights into Northern Renaissance painting, mixed with minutiae and impenetrable philosophizing. (b&w illustrations; 12 pp. color illustrations, 10 color gatefolds, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-40099-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.



Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.


An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art from Gopnik (co-author: Warhol Women, 2019), who served as chief art critic for the Washington Post and the art and design critic for Newsweek.

With a hoarder’s zeal, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) collected objects he liked until shopping bags filled entire rooms of his New York town house. Rising to equal that, Gopnik’s dictionary-sized biography has more than 7,000 endnotes in its e-book edition and drew on some 100,000 documents, including datebooks, tax returns, and letters to lovers and dealers. With the cooperation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques. Warhol exploded into view in his mid-40s with his pop art paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans and silkscreens of Elvis and Marilyn. However, fame didn’t banish lifelong anxieties heightened by an assassination attempt that left him so fearful he bought bulletproof eyeglasses. After the pop successes, Gopnik writes, Warhol’s life was shaped by a consuming desire “to climb back onto that cutting edge,” which led him to make experimental films, launch Interview magazine, and promote the Velvet Underground. At the same time, Warhol yearned “for fine, old-fashioned love and coupledom,” a desire thwarted by his shyness and his awkward stance toward his sexuality—“almost but never quite out,” as Gopnik puts it. Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on “as a true rival of all the greats who had come before” and that he and Picasso may now occupy “the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses.” Any controversy will certainly befit a lodestar of 20th-century art who believed that “you weren’t doing much of anything as an artist if you weren’t questioning the most fundamental tenets of what art is and what artists can do.”

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229839-3

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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