A fascinating, consistently entertaining exploration into the exploding business of 19th-century art.

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A STRANGE BUSINESS

ART, CULTURE, AND COMMERCE IN 19TH CENTURY LONDON

A noted historian weaves a brilliantly colorful tapestry.

From 1800, when George III still ruled, until the end of Victoria’s reign in 1901, Britain experienced dramatic social, political, economic, and cultural changes, resulting from the advent and expansion of the Industrial Revolution. Art historian and biographer Hamilton (University Curator and Honorary Reader in the History of Art/Univ. of Birmingham; London Lights: The Minds that Moved the City that Shook the World, 2007, etc.) offers an enthralling, densely detailed examination of the impact of these changes on the art world, populating his narrative with more than 150 painters, sculptors, dealers, collectors, engravers, publishers, writers, architects, and providers of artists’ materials, such as chemists (who created colors), suppliers of marble, and manufacturers of pen nibs. It’s likely that many of his huge cast of characters will not be familiar to readers, but Hamilton’s deft portraits bring them to life: Benjamin Robert Haydon, “vain, debt-ridden, self-destructive,” who insisted on painting historical narratives at a time when that genre was on the wane; the “charming, generous, loving” John Varley, a venerated teacher and popular watercolorist, whose financial woes landed him in debtors prison; the indomitable Maria Graham, a multilingual explorer of “untrodden paths,” whose marriage to artist Augustus Wall Callcott allowed her to reinvent herself “as an influential opinion-former and a distinguished, gregarious, and independent woman of letters.” Hamilton gives prominence to his former biographical subjects J.M.W. Turner, a savvy and successful marketer of his works; and Michael Faraday, who improved image reproduction of steel-plate engraving and lithography and contributed to the creation of a new paint color, Prussian blue. The book is organized according to participants’ roles, which include not only creators of art, but also the patrons who supported them, the dealers who exhibited and sold their works, and the engravers who reproduced their work for mass consumption.

A fascinating, consistently entertaining exploration into the exploding business of 19th-century art.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60598-870-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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