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

In Urgent Color: Emil Nolde’s Expressionism

Emil Nolde: Party, 1911

Profoundly influenced by Van Gogh and later by Munch, Emil Nolde (1867–1956) rejected Impressionism—which catches the external impression of a scene—in favor of Expressionism, which tries to convey the artist’s inner response, using exaggeration and distortion to delve into the nature of being. Yet Nolde seems to go even further, to be in love with the “expressiveness” of paint itself, its power to manipulate emotions, to delight, inflame, provoke.

The Serious Charm of Edward Bawden

Edward Bawden: Untitled landscape with sunset, 1927

Some critics mutter “tame” and—dread word—“charming,” and sneer at the twee marketing of Edward Bawden’s prints on greetings cards, handbags, kitchen tea-towels, and fridge magnets. But there’s more to Bawden than that. His admirers proclaim him as a mischievous genius, an edgy, brilliant designer, blending tradition with modernism. Yet the question echoes, as it so often does for those who follow a commercial career: Is he “a proper artist”? But after seeing the rich and surprising variety of work in the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s show, who can say that Edward Bawden is not?

Devastatingly Human

Paula Rego: The Family, 1988

The gripping and dramatic show “All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life” merits its title: it is “all too human” in the tender, painful works that form its core. But “a century of painting life” promises something wider—does it smack of marketing, a lure to bring people in? In fact, the heart of the show is narrower and more interesting, illustrating the competing and overlapping streams of painterly obsession in London in the second half of the twentieth century. It shows us how, in their different ways, painters such as Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj and Paula Rego redefined realism.

The Reflected Glory of Victorian Art

William Orpen: The Mirror, 1900

Why do mirrors appear so often in Victorian paintings? “Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites” suggests an answer. Often, the artists ask us to see the image they are “reflecting on”—whether it be from a poem or from domestic life, like the father with his arms outstretched in Ford Madox Brown’s Take your Son, Sir! (1851–1857), left brutally unfinished when his small son died. And, of course, as we stand before the pictures, a real rather than painted mirror would reflect ourselves, the viewers, the audience. Bending back the painted light, the mirror reminds us of our presence as witnesses.

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.”