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Unformatted text preview: Reviews A Brief History of the Artist from God to Picasso . By Paul Barolsky. Univer- sity Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010. xvi + 147 pp. In a notable instance of the Renaissance ambition to contain great things in small, Paul Barolsky assays a universal history of the artist in fewer than one.taboldstylefive.taboldstylezero.taboldstyle pages. Inevitably, some things are left out. After chapters on Homer, Ovid, and Dante, Barolsky returns to home ground with three central chapters on Vasari and the figure of the Renaissance artist as constructed from the lives of Leonardo and Michelangelo. The remaining chapters jump to Balzac, to a series of meditations on the modern artist, and finally to Picasso. From A to Z, Adam (one.taboldstyle seven.taboldstyle) and Zeuxis (one.taboldstyleone.taboldstyle one.taboldstyletwo.taboldstyle) make cameo appearances. Shake- speare gets two glances (two.taboldstylenine.taboldstyle, seven.taboldstylefive.taboldstyle). Among the missing are Horace, Sidney, Spenser, Velzquez, Lessing, Berenson, Joyce, and others arguably pertinent to a history of the artist beyond the bounds of Vasaris Italy. Missing, too, is any reference to other art historians who stand behind Barolskys argument, as well as any attention to current debates in the field. There is a selected bibliography as well as a bibliographical note acknowledging the inspira- tion the author has taken from scholars like Rudolf Wittkower and Hans Beltung, but no footnotes to lead the reader back to these critical sources or to the original works. Illustrations would be useful for example, of Picas- sos metamorphic Tte de taureau , a bull with horns constructed of a saddle and the handlebars of an old bicycle (one.taboldstylethree.taboldstylethree.taboldstyle) but such luxuries are, these days, budget busters for an academic press. It would be ungenerous, however, to take Barolsky to task for failing to do what he pointedly wishes to avoid. Unlike many art history books . . . so lengthy that they cannot be read easily, his entry into the field will not be bloated, overburdened with examples or information, at the readers expense (one.taboldstylethree.taboldstylefive.taboldstyle). The reader here is presumably the general reader who will appreciate Barolskys graceful synthesis of the artists long history in the Western imagination. Readers will also profit from his ability to short- circuit that history so as to spark unforeseen insights, giving us a deeply Ovidian Picasso (one.taboldstylethree.taboldstylethree.taboldstyle) or comparing the obsessive Paolo Uccello with the anxious modern artist portrayed by Balzac and the French symbolists (nine.taboldstyleseven.taboldstyle)....
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This note was uploaded on 04/04/2012 for the course WRIT 039 taught by Professor Stein during the Spring '08 term at UPenn.
- Spring '08