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City Life

Michael Baxandall, 15 July 1982

German Renaissance Architecture 
by Henry-Russell Hitchcock.
Princeton, 380 pp., £50, January 1982, 0 691 03959 3
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... The first point to make about this book, which is that it is an event, should not muffle the second point, which is that it is enjoyable. But it is an event. Though there are good recent studies of details, this (as Hitchcock himself points out) is the first comprehensive book on the subject in any language since a clutch in the 1920s. What Hitchcock does not say, but someone else can, is that those books of the 1920s are diversely repellent – paper or pictures, baffling allusiveness – and only to be addressed on days of high vitality and bright sun ...

Hand and Mind

Michael Baxandall, 17 March 1983

Dürer: His Art and Life 
by Fedja Anzelewsky, translated by Heide Grieve.
Gordon Fraser, 273 pp., £50, November 1982, 0 86092 068 2
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Dürer: Paintings, Prints, Drawings 
by Peter Strieder, translated by Nancy Gordon and Walter Strauss.
Muller, 400 pp., £35, September 1982, 0 584 95038 1
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... Both these books are art books in the particular sense that the main reason for paying quite large sums for them would be their illustrations. This is not to say their texts are bad. Both are by distinguished Dürer scholars and both offer tidy brief versions of the academic consensus without any eccentricities. Anzelewsky proceeds chronologically: after a first short chapter on Nuremberg he works through Dürer’s career in ten uncontroversial phases, Strieder goes by topic: ‘personality’, writings, ambience, influences, subject-matters, techniques – he was director of the great quincentenary Dürer exhibition in Nuremberg in 1971, and the arrangement reminds one a little of that ...

Momentary Substances

Nicholas Penny, 21 November 1985

Patterns of Intention 
by Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 148 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 300 03465 2
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The Enigma of Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Martin Ryle and Kate Soper.
Verso, 164 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 86091 116 0
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... In the middle of his new book Michael Baxandall wonders whether the ‘complex Newtonian-Lockean sense of how we see’, which he has just expertly expounded, provides any ‘purchase’ on Chardin’s painting, A Lady Taking Tea, to which ‘our primary explanatory duty is due.’ It is bracing to discover that we have this duty but I am puzzled by what exactly needs explanation ...

Grope or Cuddle

Peter Campbell, 12 January 1995

Tiepolo and the Pictorial Intelligence 
by Svetlana Alpers and Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 186 pp., £35, September 1994, 0 300 05978 7
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... Tiepolo,’ Svetlana Alpers and Michael Baxandall write, ‘is not a difficult painter. He is accessible and easy to like.’ Well, up to a point. For example, while I did not find the Tiepolos in the Royal Academy’s exhibition of 18th-century Venetian art ‘difficult’ in any obvious way, I did not find them ‘easy to like’ either ...

Snookered

Peter Campbell, 30 November 1995

Shadows and Enlightenment 
by Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 192 pp., £19.95, June 1995, 0 300 05979 5
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... perceptual material relates to such stratagems. Painters (well, some kinds of painters) must, as Michael Baxandall puts it, ‘backtrack down the channels of perception, undoing the integration of features that is higher perception’s achievement, pushing right back down to the early visual modules of brightness, colour and the rest’. To be ...

Image-Makers and Image-Buyers

Bob Scribner, 17 July 1980

The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany 
by Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 420 pp., £25, May 1980, 0 300 02423 1
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... many of the distinctive, and often contradictory, traits of the early Renaissance in Germany. Michael Baxandall’s excellent book continually reminds us that a school of this kind cannot be separated from the social context in which it flourished. It was an age of demographic growth and commercial expansion which saw the emergence of early ...

In a Forest of Two-Dimensional Bears

Arthur C. Danto, 9 April 1992

Perspective as Symbolic Form 
by Erwin Panofsky, translated by Christoper Wood.
Zone, 196 pp., £20.50, January 1992, 0 942299 52 3
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The Language of Art History 
edited by Salim Kemal and Ivan Gaskell.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £32.50, December 1991, 9780521353847
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... writings on art, together with an example, certainly admirable, by Richard Schiff of what Michael Baxandall has called ‘inferential art criticism’. Baxandall is represented by an attenuated version of a 1979 paper called ‘The Language of Art Criticism’, which would have been a marginally preferable ...

The First Universal Man

Jules Lubbock: The Invention of Painting, 31 October 2002

Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance 
by Anthony Grafton.
Allen Lane, 432 pp., £9.99, January 2002, 0 14 029169 5
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The Discovery of Pictorial Composition: Theories of Visual Order in Painting, 1400-1800 
by Thomas Puttfarken.
Yale, 332 pp., £30, June 2000, 0 300 08156 1
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... painter as well as a ‘completely equipped humanist’, the description given to him by Michael Baxandall thirty years ago in Giotto and the Orators, the book that has done most to establish the current view of Alberti. Grafton has contextualised him more fully, but there are also important differences in the way he and ...

Pound and the Perfect Lady

Donald Davie, 19 September 1985

Pound’s Artists: Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts in London, Paris and Italy 
by Richard Humphreys.
Tate Gallery, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 946590 28 1
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Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-1914 
edited by Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz.
Faber, 399 pp., £25, January 1985, 0 571 13480 7
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... art is quite another matter: altogether more ambitious and probing. Out of D.S. Chambers and Michael Baxandall and some Italian scholars Robinson measures up Pound’s ideas about the right relation between artist and patron against what we know of how patronage in fact worked in the ducal fiefs of Renaissance Italy; and when he deals with the ...

The vanquished party, as likely as not innocent, was dragged half-dead to the gallows

Alexander Murray: Huizinga’s history of the Middle Ages, 19 March 1998

The Autumn of the Middle Ages 
by John Huizinga, translated by Rodney Payton.
Chicago, 560 pp., £15.95, December 1997, 0 226 35994 8
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... Old and New Testament episodes? Art historians will wish to add their own footnotes. According to Michael Baxandall, for instance, what Huizinga calls a 15th-century painter’s horror vacui may simply have reflected the horror of a patron at getting less than his money’s worth, and therefore insisting on crowding a tableau with figures, paid for per ...

Exhibitionists

Hal Foster: Curation, 4 June 2015

Ways of Curating 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Penguin, 192 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 241 95096 8
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Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World – And Everything Else 
by David Balzer.
Pluto, 140 pp., £8.99, April 2015, 978 0 7453 3597 1
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... marked between academics and curators who worked on premodern periods – the Renaissance expert Michael Baxandall, for example, was greatly respected in both worlds – and some curators of 20th-century art are much admired in the academy (the Museum of Modern Art in New York has had a string of such figures, from William Rubin to John Elderfield to ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... history. A similar model or map of culture is implicit in the work of historians in other fields: Michael Baxandall, for example, has explored the possible relation between cultural practices as different as painting, gauging barrels, and calligraphy, and Roger Chartier is concerned, like Greenblatt, with both practices and representations, and above all ...

Look Me in the Eye

Julian Bell: Art and the Brain, 8 October 2009

Splendours and Miseries of the Brain: Love, Creativity and the Quest for Human Happiness 
by Semir Zeki.
Wiley-Blackwell, 234 pp., £16.99, November 2008, 978 1 4051 8557 8
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Neuroarthistory: From Aristotle and Pliny to Baxandall and Zeki 
by John Onians.
Yale, 225 pp., £18.99, February 2008, 978 0 300 12677 8
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Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images 
by Barbara Maria Stafford.
Chicago, 281 pp., £20.50, November 2008, 978 0 226 77052 9
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... 1960 in Art and Illusion, and a similar equipoise was subsequently maintained in the writings of Michael Baxandall. But how long can you keep a department running by reference to a certain tone of voice? A greater security for its onward operation, a sounder status in academic bargaining, seemed promised by the panoramic critiques of authorship that ...

Into the Gulf

Rosemary Hill, 17 December 1992

A Sultry Month: Scenes of London Literary Life in 1846 
by Alethea Hayter.
Robin Clark, 224 pp., £6.95, June 1992, 0 86072 146 9
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Painting and the Politics of Culture: New Essays on British Art 1700-1850 
edited by John Barrell.
Oxford, 301 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198173922
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London: World City 1800-1840 
edited by Celina Fox.
Yale, 624 pp., £45, September 1992, 0 300 05284 7
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... startling to someone used to – say – Marxist criticism, or to the work of art historians like Michael Baxandall and Frances Yates. The emphases and conclusions differ – as they do between the essayists here – but the principle of balancing evidence intrinsic to the painting against material that lies outside the frame to make a critical account ...

Even paranoids have enemies

Frank Kermode, 24 August 1995

F.R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism 
by Ian MacKillop.
Allen Lane, 476 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 7139 9062 7
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... at the time of its submission a Syndic of the Press, and Watson was very rude to me, the publisher Michael Black preferred not to submit a proposal to the Syndicate. I hope and believe this is not true, and that Black, a serious Leavisian with whom I was quite genially associated for a good many years, knew me well enough to understand that such a ...

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