Brilliant, lively life of long-lived American Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), by the editor of her selected letters and author of a monograph on her (neither reviewed here). Mathews's historical considerations of Cassatt, showing how the painter has fared with art critics and feminist writers through the decades since her entries were first accepted by the Paris Salon in 1872, reveal just how surreal public and critical understanding of a painter can be, with Cassatt seen in the guises of a half-dozen different roles—from Victorian spinster to torch- bearing feminist—and each rippling image seen as the real woman. Trained in Pennsylvania and the Paris atelier of Charles Chaplin, Cassatt made an early decision never to accept a marriage proposal, preferring the life of the artist to that of the wife; nor, apparently, did she ever enter into a lesbian tie, though these were not uncommon among French painters. Cassatt was early recognized for her forceful opinions and the intense intellectual stimulation of her company. She led a romantic, nomadic life in France until turning professional and taking up her own studio in Paris. She welcomed the invitation by Degas to join the Impressionists and, though she met few of the outstanding members of that group, enjoyed matching wits with the fast tongues of those she did meet. Cassatt gave up her earlier melancholy, yearning, and contemplative subject matter for the modern psychological depth of Degas and Manet. With the waning of the Impressionists a decade later, she came into her prime and brought an abstract originality to her sensuous compositions of mothers and children. Her taste influenced many major American art collections, though cataracts deprived her of sight during her final years. Quiet but uplifting. (Illustrated throughout with 130 b&w photos)

Pub Date: March 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-394-58497-X

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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


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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There may never be a better biography of Copley than this sumptuous, exquisitely told story of a man and his time.



A majestic portrait of the American painter.

Kamensky (History/Harvard Univ.; The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America’s First Banking Collapse, 2008, etc.) delivers a masterful portrayal of John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), a “cautious man in a rash age,” his story “peculiarly American: hard-edged, uncloaked, impolite.” The author beautifully merges biography with history to tell the story of one of America’s earliest and finest portrait painters. Along the way, she provides insightful profiles of many of Copley’s key contemporaries, including Benjamin West and Joshua Reynolds. Born into a poor Boston household, Copley seemed destined to draw and paint. When his mother married a second time, to a portrait painter, Copley was able to take advantage of his new father’s skills and materials to teach himself to paint. It was his calling, and his business as a supremely gifted portrait painter of local businessmen and British officers took off. In the 1750s, his craft improved, with “fabrics that shimmered, almost rustled; eyes that seemed to have mind, even spirit behind them.” By 1764, he was experimenting with full-scale portraits. He painted the impressive A Boy with a Flying Squirrel in 1765, with his brother as the model. His portrait of John Hancock followed, and in 1768, he painted an iconic masterpiece, Paul Revere. At the time, Britain was relentlessly taxing items, including “painters colours,” and passing repressive acts. As a loyalist, Copley kept his politics quiet, but after the Boston Tea Party in 1773, he feared for his family. He sailed to England in 1774, never to return. He began painting large historical paintings, but, as Kamensky writes, “his insight diminished.” After signing the Treaty of Paris, John Adams sat for Copley in London for a portrait. Shortly after, Copley died “beneath a mountain of debts.” An ocean away, the painter’s halting rebirth began.

There may never be a better biography of Copley than this sumptuous, exquisitely told story of a man and his time.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-24001-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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