ODILON REDON

PRINCE OF DREAMS

Meticulous research by an international team of scholars, complemented by magnificently reproduced illustrations, creates an impressive portrait of the fin-de-siäcle French artist Odilon Redon (18401916). Although Redon was once ranked with artists like Seurat and Gauguin, he has lately received less attention than his peers—a situation that the current retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago, which this volume explicates, should help redress. Redon is best remembered today for his visionary monochromatic prints and drawings. Among his most frequently exhibited pictures are such fantastic dream images as an eye set within an ascending balloon and a giant smiling spider poised at a jaunty angle. Many public collections also display colorful pastel drawings of flower bouquets from the latter part of his career. It has proven difficult to explain his work according to the grand narratives of art history. Redon was neither an impressionist nor a modernist; even the label of symbolist threatens to assimilate his works to literature and philosophy rather than grant them the independence that their singularity demands. The authors, led by the Art Institute's Druick, recontextualize Redon by carefully unraveling his relationship to the romantic esthetics, spiritualist theologies, and art-market imperatives of his time, while offering a convincing psychoanalytic account of how his art reflects his unhappy childhood, his difficult apprenticeship, and his struggle to emerge from the shadow of his talented elder brother. Dark clouds and landscapes from his early life mark his noirs, they argue, but dissolve to reveal the no less mysterious, but finally joyous, light and color of his last decades. Many heretofore unknown full-color images brought to light by their investigations give a fuller sense of the development of themes in this late period. A superb art book for aficionados of occult ideas, of the graphic arts, or simply of striking images and effusive colors.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8109-3769-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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A beautifully written, pensive, and restorative memoir.

A MONTH IN SIENA

A quiet meditation on art and life.

Matar’s Pulitzer Prize–winning memoir, The Return (2016), was about his Libyan father who was kidnapped in Cairo and taken back, imprisoned, and “gradually, like salt dissolving in water, was made to vanish.” His father’s presence reverberates throughout this thoughtful, sensitive extended essay about the author’s visit to Siena, where he ruminates and reflects on paintings, faith, love, and his wife, Diana. Matar focuses on the 13th- to 15th-century Sienese School of paintings which “stood alone, neither Byzantine nor of the Renaissance, an anomaly between chapters, like the orchestra tuning its strings in the interval,” but he discusses others as well. First, he explores the town, “as intimate as a locket you could wear around your neck and yet as complex as a maze.” Day or night, the “city seemed to be the one determining the pace and direction of my walks.” In the Palazzo Pubblico, Matar scrutinized a series of frescos the “size of a tennis court” painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in 1338. As the author writes, his Allegory of Good Government is a “hymn to justice.” Matar astutely describes it in great detail, as he does with all the paintings he viewed. When one is in a despondent mood, paintings, Matar writes, seem to “articulate a feeling of hope.” He also visited a vast cemetery, a “glimpse [of] death’s endless appetite.” Over the month, he talked with a variety of Sienese people, including a Jordanian man whom he befriended. One by one, paintings flow by: Caravaggio’s “curiously tragic” David With the Head of Goliath, Duccio di Buoninsegna’s “epic altarpiece,” Maestà. Mounted onto a cart in 1311, it was paraded through Siena. Along the way, Matar also ponders the metaphysics of rooms and offers a luminous, historical assessment of the Black Death.

A beautifully written, pensive, and restorative memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12913-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Clear journalistic prose makes sense of the befuddling legal entanglements in an ongoing battle that has become notorious in...

ART HELD HOSTAGE

THE BATTLE OVER THE BARNES COLLECTION

American Lawyer deputy editor Anderson chronicles the legal contests over the administration of America’s largest private art collection.

The author begins with a fair portrait of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, amasser of the famous Barnes Collection and creator of the eponymous foundation charged with its preservation. Barnes received his medical degree at 20 and went on to wrest control of a pharmaceutical company that owned exclusive rights to manufacture an internationally prescribed gonorrhea medicine. (His signature style throughout his life was to hire first-rate legal counsel and pursue his litigious course until he got what he wanted.) Barnes’s fortune, preserved through the Depression, permitted the assembly of a fabulous collection that included 180 Renoirs; it’s currently valued at six billion dollars. Just before his death in 1951, the doctor changed the terms of the foundation’s indenture, granting control to the trustees of Lincoln College, the oldest black college in America, setting the stage for a long round of disputes. While the collection gained tremendously in value over the next four decades, the size of the endowment that paid for the upkeep of the French Renaissance palace that housed it dwindled through mismanagement. In the 1990s, foundation president Richard H. Glanton, a high-profile African-American lawyer, oversaw the galleries’ renovation and undertook the expensive litigation responsible for bringing the foundation to the edge of ruin. Anderson describes these conflicts in a work that by his own admission is “a legal tale” rather than a scholarly biography or a work of art history. The absence of footnotes, he explains, springs from the desire of his best sources to remain anonymous. That’s not surprising, considering the rancor all this legal wrangling has generated, including a lawsuit over a parking lot instituted in federal court that invoked the Ku Klux Klan Act.

Clear journalistic prose makes sense of the befuddling legal entanglements in an ongoing battle that has become notorious in the art world and beyond. (16 illustrations)

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-04889-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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