New Books in the Society of Fellows
Celebrating Recent Work by Maggie Cao, Dalia Judovitz, and William Sharpe
The End of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century America
By: Maggie Cao
The End of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century America examines the dissolution of landscape painting in the late nineteenth-century United States. Maggie M. Cao explores the pictorial practices that challenged, mourned, or revised the conventions of landscape painting, a major cultural project for nineteenth-century Americans. Through rich analysis of artworks at the genre’s unsettling limits—landscapes that self-destruct, masquerade as currency, or even take flight—Cao shows that experiments in landscape played a crucial role in the American encounter with modernity. Landscape is the genre through which American art most urgently sought to come to terms with the modern world.
Georges de La Tour and The Enigma of the Visible
By: Dalia Judovitz
Not rediscovered until the twentieth century, the works of Georges de La Tour retain an aura of mystery. At first sight, his paintings suggest a veritable celebration of light and the visible world, but this is deceptive. The familiarity of visual experience blinds the beholder to a deeper understanding of the meanings associated with vision and the visible in the early modern period. By exploring the representations of light, vision, and the visible in La Tour’s works, this interdisciplinary study examines the nature of painting and its artistic, religious, and philosophical implications. In the wake of iconoclastic outbreaks and consequent Catholic call for the revitalization of religious imagery, La Tour paints familiar objects of visible reality that also serve as emblems of an invisible, spiritual reality. Like the books in his paintings, asking to be read, La Tour’s paintings ask not just to be seen as visual depictions but to be deciphered as instruments of insight. In figuring faith as spiritual passion and illumination, La Tour’s paintings test the bounds of the pictorial image, attempting to depict what painting cannot ultimately show: words, hearing, time, movement, changes of heart. La Tour’s emphasis on spiritual insight opens up broader artistic, philosophical, and conceptual reflections on the conditions of possibility of the pictorial medium. By scrutinizing what is seen and how, and by questioning the position of the beholder, his works revitalize critical discussion of the nature of painting and its engagements with the visible world.
What's in a shadow? Menace, seduction, or salvation? Immaterial but profound, shadows lurk everywhere in literature and the visual arts, signifying everything from the treachery of appearances to the unfathomable power of God. From Plato to Picasso, from Rembrandt to Welles and Warhol, from Lord of the Rings to the latest video game, shadows act as central players in the drama of Western culture. Yet because they work silently, artistic shadows often slip unnoticed past audiences and critics. Conceived as an accessible introduction to this elusive phenomenon, Grasping Shadows is the first book that offers a general theory of how all shadows function in texts and visual media. Arguing that shadow images take shape within a common cultural field where visual and verbal meanings overlap, William Sharpe ranges widely among classic and modern works, revealing the key motifs that link apparently disparate works such as those by Fra Angelico and James Joyce, Clementina Hawarden and Kara Walker, Charles Dickens and Kumi Yamashita. Showing how real-world shadows have shaped the meanings of shadow imagery, Grasping Shadows guides the reader through the techniques used by writers and artists to represent shadows from the Renaissance onward. The last chapter traces how shadows impact the art of the modern city, from Renoir and Zola to film noir and projection systems that capture the shadows of passers-by on streets around the globe. Extending his analysis to contemporary street art, popular songs, billboards, and shadow-theatre, Sharpe demonstrates a practical way to grasp the "dark side" that looms all around us.