From the editor's desk | By Elizabeth Pochoda

Editor's letter, September/October 2014

September 21, 2014  |  On our cover, the cacophonous world in which we live--digital and artisanal, ephemeral and timeless--is rendered, ironically, in the disciplined quiet of limewood by the master carver (and prose master) David Esterly. Carving, Esterly has observed in his book The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making, is a metaphor for many things. I'd count among them the energetic meeting of past and present that you will find in his article on the centuries long tradition of letter-rack paintings that inspired his own creations shown here.

I hope Esterly's article will lead you to his book, where you will find in addition to his account of restoring a masterwork by Grinling Gibbons lost to fire at Hampton Court Palace, a dramatic meditation on physical skill, creativity, and beauty that will excite anyone who has ever, for instance, admired a great cartouche, wondered at the invidious distinction between craft and art, or pondered the fashions of the art world, where the word disci…» More

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Current & Coming | By Rose Birnbaum

Museums want you! A roundup of shows commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I

September 18, 2014  |  This year marks the centennial of the Great War and museums around the globe have been in a wartime fervor setting up exhibitions to commemorate the conflict.

The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy • Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY • to September 21 • moma.org

The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy is comprised of 50 movie screenings emphasizing the power of film in keeping the memory of  an historical event alive. Selections represent the viewpoints of all the nations who fought in the war and range from contemporary films, including Steven Spielberg's War Horse, to period pictures starring Hollywood legends such as Greta Garbo and Gary Cooper.

Screenshot from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse directed by Rex Ingram (1892-1950), 1921.

Victory is a Question of Stamina: Posters from the First World War • William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs, CT • to October 12 • thebenton.org

Victory is a Question of Stamina by Harvey Dunn (1884-1952), 1917; color lithograph. The William Bent…» More

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Current & Coming | By Barrymore Laurence Scherer

About books

September 8, 2014  |  History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000, ed. Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber (Bard Graduate Center and Yale University Press). 698 pp., color and b/w illus.

Books about design history abound, but this one may be the first to embrace both Western and Eastern design over the course of six centuries. The discussions address virtually every expected subject: furniture, textiles and costume, glass and ceramics, metalwork, and product design. But the book goes beyond these to include interior design, landscape and garden design, and even stage and film design.

 The work of twenty-seven contributors, the volume is cogently arranged in four chronological sections. Within each section separate chapters discuss the development of design in its major global regions: East Asia, India, the Islamic world, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Literally hundreds of objects are depicted and examined within their historical and social context. We also witness the interpla…» More

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Current & Coming | By Rose Birnbaum

Two military portraits: El Greco and Pulzone

August 25, 2014  |  Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending one of the Frick Collection's "Summer Nights," a series that offers free after-hours admission and a number of activities centered on a single exhibition--lectures and live music among them. This particular evening was focused on Men in Armor: El Greco and Pulzone Face to Face, an exhibition with just two paintings. Jeongho Park, the show's guest curator, was on hand to give a gallery talk and take questions from the crowd. Also on the program, Celil Refik Kaya, a young guitarist from Mannes College of Music, wooed guests with music evocative of sixteenth-century Spain.

El Greco's Vincenzo Anastagi (Fig. 1) and Scipione Pulzone's Jacopo Boncompagni (Fig. 2) were contemporary works, the former dating to circa 1575 and the latter from 1574. Indeed, it is likely that El Greco saw the Boncompagni portrait whilst gathering inspiration for his own commission. Although it is not known whether El Greco and Pulzone were rivals, the exhibiti…» More

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Current & Coming | By Carolin C. Young

Farther afield: Highclere Castle: The real Downton Abbey

August 20, 2014  |  

The staggering luxury of Downtown Abbey's turreted house and lush grounds have mesmerized audiences as much as any of the adventures of the Crawley family and their staff

The real Downton Abbey is Highclere Castle, located in Berkshire at a crossroads between Winchester and Oxford, Bristol and London. The property's thousand acres of parklands include the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, and the current house stands on foundations that for roughly eight hundred years held up the palace of the bishops of Winchester.

Since 1679 the property has belonged to the Herbert family. Henry Herbert (1741-1811), a grandson of the eighth Earl of Pembroke, inherited the estate from an uncle in 1769 and shortly afterwards commis­sioned Lancelot "Capability" Brown (1716-1783) to redesign the gardens, a project that included moving an extant folly and creat­ing new ones.

In 1793 Herbert was granted the hereditary title o…» More

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