Time to ditch those light beach reads and fill your brain with some art history. Here are five art history books we’re anticipating for the fall, from the dawn of photography, to shady Soviet art fire-sales, to the art world’s most scandalous murder in comic book form.
Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume II: From Le Corbusier to Rem Koolhaas
by Martin Filler
New York Review Books (August 20, 2013)
Martin Filler ambitiously launched into the history of modern architecture in 2007, and now his Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume II: From Le Corbusier to Rem Koolhaas continues the journey through how building became this experimental art. The sequel includes everyone from the firm McKim, Mead, and White (of the dear Stanford White, whose murder story appears later in this list), to theoretically-inclined visionaries like Buckminster Fuller and Le Corbusier. Miller has also aimed to include women who were architectural influences in modernism, such as Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky and Kazuyo Sejima, in his essays. It seems like a lot for just one book, but you’re sure to scavenge some architectural facts that will enliven your next wander through your own modern city.
Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World
by Thomas Cahill
Nan A. Talese (October 29, 2013)
It’s easy to forget that it was the horrendous Black Plague that in a way resulted in the innovation of the Renaissance, and subsequently the limitations (some would argue) of the Reformation. In Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World, Thomas Cahill continues his Hinges of History series — home to his takes on such ambitious themes as How the Irish Saved Civilization — and looks at both the artistic and religious figures that guided the cultural, visual, and societal shifts that are still resonating today.
Selling Russia’s Treasures: The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art
edited by Nicholas V. Iljine and Natalya Semyonova
Abbeville Press (November 12, 2013)
It’s not too well-known that the Old World paintings that are the pride of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC were purchased from the Russian Hermitage when the Soviet Union, hungry for cash, sold off much of the country’s best art. Selling Russia’s Treasures: The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art, 1917-1938, being made available in English for the first time, looks at this period in a series of expert essays. Following the October 1917 Revolution, everything collected by the aristocrats, church, and Russian royal family was on the block, from Fabergé eggs to illuminated manuscripts, and now you can read about where it all went in this illustrated book.
Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry
by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport
St. Martin’s Press (November 26, 2013)
Both a scientist and an artist were racing to figure out a way in the 19th century for nature to “paint its own portrait,” or in other words, to produce the first photograph. Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport examines the innovations and rivalry of Henry Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre. They would respectively create the Talbotype and Daguerreotype and flashbulb the world into the age of modern photography. It should be a good read for both those interested in the science behind photography as well as the art that grew from its origins.
Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Stanford White (Treasury of XXth Century Murder)
by Rick Geary
NBM Publishing (December 1, 2013)
Cartoonist and illustrator Rick Geary continues his unsettling Treasury of XXth Century Murder series with Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Stanford White. The shooting of legendary architect Stanford White point-blank in the face on top of his own Madison Square Garden is quite possibly the greatest art history murder scandal of all time. One hopes that Geary will do justice to White’s infamous velvet-swing-appointed apartment — where he wooed young chorus girls like Evelyn Nesbit, whose later unstable husband would be White’s undoing.
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