FLORENCE

A PORTRAIT

Levey, former director of London's National Gallery and a prolific art historian, explores the long history of the fabled city-state of Florence. Said to have been founded by Julius Caesar, Florence was originally a republic based on the Roman model, made wealthy by the clothmaking trade and Mediterranean commerce. The symbol of Florence, the lily and the lion, denoted a yoking of grace and strength, qualities that would in fact enable the city to survive such calamities as fire, flood, and plague—events vividly described in the author's narrative. During the Renaissance, fervent religious devotion and brilliant artistry, dedicated to such enduring themes as the city's patron saint, John the Baptist, and the Madonna and Child, coexisted with eruptions of violence and long-standing family vendettas, a civil war between the city's Guelph and Ghibelline factions, and the struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy. Along with the constant maneuvering for power among the city's great families (most notably the Medicis), Levey presents Florence's great achievements in the arts: He believes that the city's visual arts—its architecture, sculpture, and painting—reveal its soul better than any words. Levey pays homage to the great names of Florentine art, including Michelangelo, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Raphael, Fra Angelico, and Giotto, as well as to such great children of Florence as Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, and Galileo. Florence's importance extended into modern times: In 1865, the city was named the capital of a united and revitalized Italy. Levey points out that present-day Florence would still be recognizable to its citizens of the past, and he asserts that one still senses there the contending elements of piety, an appetite for worldly prestige, and a consciousness of the next world, which have been constants in Florence's long history. A fine achievement. Exceptionally detailed reporting about a fascinating city. (50 color illustrations, 100 halftones, 3 maps)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-674-30657-0

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

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.

WARHOL

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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