LEONARDO'S NEPHEW

ESSAYS ON ART AND ARTISTS

A detailed, somewhat contrarian collection of essays on the interpretation of art and artists. James Fenton, professor of poetry at Oxford, wrote these essays for The New York Review of Books. They reveal an academic’s sensibility in their thoroughness and depth, but Fenton has the advantage of not being an art historian by trade. He is, rather, a prize intellectual thorn who delights in skewering accepted interpretations of art when they defy common sense. Perhaps his best-known effort in this collection—which includes essays on Bernini, Verrochio, Degas, and Seurat—is his piece on funerary portraiture, called “The Mummy’s Secret.” In it, Fenton suggests that the portraits attached to the swathed bodies might have been commissioned well before death, citing the torsion of the sitter’s body—a pose “elemental to portrait photography——as evidence. He mocks the experts at the British Museum who think otherwise and makes a terrific argument for the act of observation, pure and simple. It’s a refreshing perspective, even when couched in his densely-packed, oddly rambling style—for some reason, Fenton seems driven to include everything that has any possible bearing on the subject at hand. But his philosophy of interpretation is quite simple: “It is good to ask of a work of art three questions,” he writes. “What is it? Where does it come from? And why is it here?” And, one could add, why has it lasted? One of Fenton’s strengths comes from his ability to delve into the history of an object, to trace the influence of politics on a particular piece of work—from its critical interpretation and assigned value to its very survival. In making the reader aware of what has lasted—and why—Fenton also conjures all the art that has been lost, scoured, painted over, misattributed, and misread. A subversive academic, Fenton uses his intellect and vast knowledge to question the ways in which certain artworks—as well as their creators—have been framed by history. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-18505-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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A dazzling visual homage to a music icon gone too soon.

MY NAME IS PRINCE

A Los Angeles–based photographer pays tribute to a legendary musician with anecdotes and previously unseen images collected from their 25-year collaboration.

St. Nicholas (co-author: Whitney: Tribute to an Icon, 2012, etc.) first met Prince in 1991 at a prearranged photo shoot. “The dance between photographer and subject carried us away into hours of inspired photographs…and the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime.” In this book, the author fondly remembers their many professional encounters in the 25 years that followed. Many would be portrait sessions but done on impulse, like those in a burned-out Los Angeles building in 1994 and on the Charles Bridge in Prague in 2007. Both times, the author and Prince came together through serendipity to create playfully expressive images that came to represent the singer’s “unorthodox ability to truly live life in the moment.” Other encounters took place while Prince was performing at Paisley Park, his Minneapolis studio, or at venues in LA, New York, Tokyo, and London. One in particular came about after the 1991 release of Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls album and led to the start of St. Nicholas’ career as a video director. Prince, who nurtured young artists throughout his career, pushed the author to “trust my instincts…expand myself creatively.” What is most striking about even the most intimate of these photographs—even those shot with Mayte Garcia, the fan-turned–backup dancer who became Prince’s wife in 1996—is the brilliantly theatrical quality of the images. As the author observes, the singer was never not the self-conscious artist: “Prince was Prince 24/7.” Nostalgic and reverential, this book—the second St. Nicholas produced with/for Prince—is a celebration of friendship and artistry. Prince fans are sure to appreciate the book, and those interested in art photography will also find the collection highly appealing.

A dazzling visual homage to a music icon gone too soon.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-293923-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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