Outstanding Academic Titles 2023: Fine Arts

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2023 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, Outstanding Academic Titles from the past year about Fine Art. A hearty congratulations to the winning authors, editors and publishers!

1. Three women artists: expanding abstract expressionism in the American West
Von Lintel, Amy. by Amy Von Lintel and Bonnie Roos Texas A&M, 2022

This meticulously produced, handsomely illustrated, sensitively documented volume carefully analyzes how Eastern avant-garde artists Elaine de Kooning, Jeanne Reynal, and Louise Nevelson were influenced by their experiences of and artistic reactions to the wide-open, randomly populated, sun-scorched High Plains of Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma and how they processed and incorporated these experiences into their particular artistic visions. Von Lintel and Roos (both, West Texas A&M Univ.) contextualize the interest in abstract expressionism developing in this region and the role these artists played in nourishing this interest through their paintings. Of particular note is Von Lintel’s careful delineation of the profoundly significant role art dealer Dord Fitz had in advancing and promoting modern art, women painters, and abstract expressionism. Fitz was, as this volume shows, a talented and committed advocate for modern art, a friend and energetic supporter of women artists, and a significant voice in the development of art and painting on the High Plains of Texas and Oklahoma.

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2. Vermeer and the art of love
Georgievska-Shine, Aneta. Lund Humphries, 2022

In elucidating Johannes Vermeer’s paintings of women in domestic interiors, Georgievska-Shine (Univ. of Maryland) explores literature, religion, and pictorial tradition, referencing Petrarchan and metaphysical poetry, music, and emblems. The thread is love—the unseen viewer may be regarding his beloved from afar, indicated by an empty chair, a map, or a letter. Paintings within the paintings further amplify this theme and offer allusions to love as nourishment, both spiritual and physical. Vermeer’s juxtapositions pose questions not easily resolved: is the love reciprocal or unrequited? The author’s well-chosen comparisons to paintings by Vermeer’s contemporaries heighten the ambiguity and complexity of this extraordinary artist’s work. The momentariness of one woman, for example, the girl with the pearl earring, is contrasted with the stillness of another, the woman dressed in blue who reads a letter. The first seeks contact with the viewer; the other retreats into her private fantasy. This stimulating discussion of compellingly beautiful imagery is both lively and highly informative, leading readers on an adventure through spaces they can enter only in their imaginations.

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3. The varnish & the glaze: painting splendor with oil, 1100–1500
Bol, Marjolijn. Chicago, 2023

This valuable book is a rarity in its ability to bridge gaps between disparate fields of specialty in art historical research. Bol (Utrecht Univ., Netherlands) writes with authority about the development of glazes and varnishes from the European Middle Ages until the early Renaissance (ca.1100–1500) and about Jan van Eyck’s exploitation of those methods. The myth that Van Eyck invented modern oil painting has endured, and this volume goes a long way toward establishing the artist’s techniques as born of historical investigation, experimentation, and responses to aesthetic imperatives. Bol is particularly adept at explaining the scientific properties of artists’ materials, and she supplements the text with informative images, many of which she took, as she re-creates and documents the historical processes. The book is especially helpful for its reintegration of painting and other art forms, such as goldsmith work, jewelry, tapestry, manuscript illumination, and more.

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4. George Grosz in Berlin: the relentless eye
Grosz, George. by Sabine Rewald, with an essay by Ian Buruma Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2022

This handsomely illustrated work provides a significant and succinct examination of German painter George Grosz (1893–1959). Grosz saw in German society a dystopian world—a world marked by hypocritical and moral decadence at every level—in the period between the end of WW I and the rise of Hitler. Human suffering and its morally debilitating impact on individuals was a frequent theme for Grosz, and it influenced his participation in the Dada movement. In the aftermath of his limited service in WW I, Grosz developed a lifelong hatred for war and German militarism and a sustained dislike for the politics and politicians who supported those endeavors. Ferment for change was profound, and Grosz chronicled his dismay in caricatures, drawings, and paintings. In early 1932, he accepted an invitation to teach at the Art Students League in New York, and he ultimately became an American citizen, returning to live in Germany only shortly before his death. In his perceptive essay, Ian Burma chronicles the nature of what Grosz found morally destructive in German society and in his Berlin experiences.
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5Envisioning evil: “the Nazi drawings” by Mauricio Lasansky
McGarry, Rachel. by Rachel McGarry with Barry D. Cytron Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2021

Accompanying the Minneapolis Institute of Art 2021 exhibition of the work of Mauricio Lasansky (1914–2012), McGarry’s rich catalogue provides detailed, brilliantly contextualized understanding of Lasansky’s artistic mission to expose the evil of the Nazi regime and the horrors of the Shoah. Lasansky created his series of 33 charcoal drawings during the 1960s as the Eichmann trials and Nazi atrocities captured worldwide attention. The catalogue’s opening essay, “The Holocaust in Press, Culture, and Art: Before and after Eichmann,” and concluding visual time line, “The Holocaust in Literature, Art, and Popular Culture, 1945–1970,” offer powerful, unique lessons on how best to interpret Lasansky’s work and its significance alongside archival documents, historical milestones, scholarship, and films, literature, and other popular-culture forces. A biographical chapter offers a complete picture of how Lasansky, an Argentinian Jew, began creating watershed works such as Dachau, his first work to directly examine the Nazi camps, in 1946. He went on to create some of the most haunting images of Nazi victims, concentration camps, and other holocaust atrocities. Meticulous research and exhibition notes bring the Nazi atrocities more into the world’s collective consciousness.
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