Jenny Uglow’s new book, Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense, will be published in the US in April.
 (October 2017)

IN THE REVIEW

Collecting for the Glory of God

Hans Sloane during his presidency of the Royal Society, with an illustration of Jamaican lagetto; portrait by Stephen Slaughter, 1736

Collecting the World: Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum

by James Delbourgo
When the first visitors entered the newly opened British Museum in Montagu House in Bloomsbury in January 1759, they walked past a stone from the Appian Way, the skeleton of a unicorn fish, and a buffalo head from Newfoundland. Beneath their feet were pillars from the Giant’s Causeway in County …

The Revolutionary Christian Girl

Edith Heckstall Smith: The Match Girl, circa 1884–1890

The Match Girl and the Heiress

by Seth Koven
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 …

A Seemingly Virtuous Monster

Engraving of Sabrina Bicknell at age seventy-five by Richard James Lane, after a portrait by Stephen Poyntz Denning, 1833; painting of Thomas Day by Joseph Wright, 1770

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 …

The Saga of the Flaming Zucchini

Pierre Bonnard: Lunch at Grand-Lemps, 1899

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

NYR DAILY

Modigliani: Fevered Life, Pure Line

These sensual images, with curving shoulders, breasts, and thighs outlined in black, with clever references to both old masters and contemporary styles, were a bald commercial venture. But these nudes overcome the cynical appeal to a male gaze. Their bodies are idealized, smooth shapes of sex, but their faces are those of individual women: some gaze out frankly, or peer teasingly, from beneath long lashes; others close their eyes or let their heads loll wearily, as if bored with the whole affair. It is as though Modigliani himself found peace in their calm stillness, away from his fevered life, away from the mass death and ravages of the war.

Rachel Whiteread’s Solid Air

There’s something cool yet passionate about Rachel Whiteread’s work. It is calmly paradoxical, domestic but monumental, tactile but detached, nostalgic but austere: objects and dwellings from everyday lives are lifted to a different sphere, a dance in space. In a new exhibition celebrating twenty-five years of her career as an artist, Tate Britain has removed the partitions that usually divide separate rooms, creating a huge open space with white walls and glowing, pale wood floor. She asks us to see things we know—tables and chairs, the inside of a room—from the opposite of our normal perspective, looking at the space instead of the walls, the gaps instead of the frames, making the air itself solid.

Lewd and Ludic: the Stampography of Vincent Sardon

The Stampographer, a new catalogue of Vincent Sardon’s work, is exuberantly bizarre, often foul-mouthed, sometimes boring, sometimes tender. There are jolly naked cowboys, and blue-and-red biff-boff cartoon fights (Republicans and Democrats?), obscene photos and deliberately blasphemous images—not that anyone would disagree with Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa as an illustration for “the orgasm over time.”

The Outside-In Art of Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry: Reclining Artist, 2017

In the art world, Grayson Perry believes, despite the blockbuster exhibitions at national galleries, “popular” is a term of abuse, linked to populism and unthinking prejudice. But in his exhibition “The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!” he shows that craft is also “art,” and that it belongs to us all. It’s here, even more than in his overt political statements, that Perry is truly democratic and profoundly “popular.”

NYR CALENDAR

Artist and Empire

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.”