Toward the start of his fascinating book The Match Girl and the Heiress, Seth Koven states that it “joins efforts by historians to reclaim pre–World War II Britain for Christianity, a salutary historiographical Reconquista.” This may set alarm bells ringing, with its implication that more secular-minded scholars should be driven …
How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate
by Wendy Moore
Wendy Moore has written an account of a crazed attempt by the eighteenth-century poet and philosopher Thomas Day to educate two foundling girls, so that one might become the ideal wife. Her book reads at times like a historical novel. Yet it is underpinned by meticulous research, and raises a …
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
by Bee Wilson
Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat combines a passionate gathering of information, diligently communicated, and an amused realism that brings us safely down to earth. Tirelessly, Wilson narrates many instances of scientists and engineers, often in cahoots with big business, setting out to solve kitchen problems, especially in inventing modern labor-saving devices like beaters and blenders. “What tulips were to Holland in the 1630s and Internet startups were to Seattle in the 1990s, eggbeaters were to the East Coast of the United States in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s,” Wilson says.</p
A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos
by Dava Sobel
Dava Sobel has carved a niche for herself as a writer who employs narrative and biography to present archaic and complicated theories in an engaging and accessible manner. After making her name as an award-winning science reporter for The New York Times, she published Longitude, her first book in this …
It is impossible and wrong, in this fascinating exhibition on Russian art between 1917-1932, to separate art from politics, utopian propaganda from dystopian tragedy. Aesthetic judgement is inevitably compromised. Some may think it obscene to celebrate this period in Russian art: yet it is surely right to make us confront it, to see the boldness of the art and to try and fathom the mixed motives, the hopes and fears and struggles of the artists involved. Right too, when the headlines are full of Trump and Putin, to remind us of the history.
The fascinating exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London, “Making Nature,” investigates our long history of trying to comprehend the wealth of the animal world, while also making us dizzily aware that we are, after all, animals ourselves. One of the joys of these darkened rooms is the way that works of art share space with the scientific exhibits, often making the latter themselves seem fantastical.
Within moments of entering the Tate’s exhibit Paul Nash’s paintings, my brisk walk slowed to a mesmerized linger as I encountered something new and strange, watching the artist make discoveries and adjustments, trying in different ways to fit his vision to dark experience and to blend his “Englishness” with international modernism—and not always succeeding. Even at its most urgent, Nash’s painting seems tremulous, poised between past and future, dream and reality.
“Lucian Freud Unseen,” a small display of drawings and sketches from Freud’s voluminous notebooks, now at the National Portrait Gallery in London, is a small display of artist’s autobiography, vivified by jottings on ideas and projects and people, phone numbers and racing tips—it takes us through his life, beginning with packed, colorful childish paintings. Looking at Freud’s sketches you feel you are in the company of a man of wit, intelligence—and who has a rather uncomfortable, even frightening power.
An attempt to show how artists have responded to the history and ethos of empire over the last five centuries, and to address its legacy “not just in public monuments, but in social structures, culture and in the fault lines of contemporary global politics.”