These are brief reviews of books recently sent to us. We have included ordering information for publishers that accept mail, phone, or on-line orders. For other publishers, your local bookstore or mail-order house is the place to look.
Maine and the Sea: 50 Years of Collecting at Maine Maritime Museum by Charles E. Burden and Nathan R. Lipfert (Maine Maritime Museum, 2012, 143 pp., softbound, $24.95 plus S/H from Maine Maritime Museum, [www.mainemaritimemuseum.org] or  443-1316).
The collection of the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine, includes 21,500 objects, 17,000 books, 132,000 photographs, 551 manuscript collections, 45,000 ship plans, 1200 maps and charts, and nine historic buildings. From that huge and varied collection, Nathan R. Lipfert and Charles E. Burden selected over 100 items to feature in an exhibit that runs through May 26. This catalog of the exhibit presents the objects in the order in which they were added to the museum's collection. Each item is pictured in color, and the accompanying text includes the history of that item and how it was acquired by the museum.
Many of the items are what one would expect from a maritime exhibit, including models and paintings of ships, figureheads, and burgees, but there are many surprises, such as a Burmese temple decoration picked up around 1870 by a sightseeing mariner from Maine, a 19th-century canvas game board, a sterling silver christening bottle, and a set of welding leathers and mittens worn at the Bath Iron Works in the 1970's.
Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. writes in the catalog's introduction that the "definition of what is historically significant is constantly changing, and we need to collect with a broad, open, and embracing spirit." We agree with Shettleworth's assessment that such a "spirit is reflected in every object in this exhibit and on every page of this catalog."
Glorious Splendor: The 18th-Century Wallpapers in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, Massachusetts by Judy Anderson (The Donning Company Publishers, 2011, 96 pp., softbound, $24.50 postpaid from Judy Anderson, [www.MarbleheadArchitecture.com],  631-1762, or <MarbleheadArchitecture@aol.com>).
The Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, Massachusetts, built in 1766-68 for one of the wealthiest men in Massachusetts and preserved since 1909 as a museum, contains a rare treasure: one of only two surviving sets of 1760's hand-painted wallpapers, and the only such papers still in their original location. Richard C. Nylander, curator emeritus of Historic New England, calls the Lee Mansion's wallpapers "among the most important to survive from the 18th century" and writes that they offer "an unparalleled document of 18th-century taste preserved in one American house."
Judy Anderson, a social, architectural, and cultural historian, worked for 16 years for the Marblehead Museum and Historical Society, which maintains the Lee Mansion. Anderson has painstakingly researched the Lee Mansion's wallpapers, and she presents her findings with great clarity and attention to detail. Along with showing the hand-painted wallpaper scenes and explaining how they were created, Anderson offers the history of the Lee family, illustrates the carved woodwork and other decorative elements in the mansion, discusses related wallpapers in other homes and museums, and provides a chart of the sources of the scenic images on the murals. She also outlines the conservation that has been conducted to date and describes what remains to be done to preserve these fragile wallpapers.
This gem of a book will appeal to anyone interested in Colonial history, architecture, or decorative arts. Anderson is to be commended for bringing these spectacular wallpapers to a wider audience.
Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine, edited by Thomas A. Denenberg (Portland Museum of Art, in association with Yale University Press, 2012, 184 pp., hardbound, $37.50, or softbound, $24.95, plus S/H from the Portland Museum of Art, [http://store.portlandmuseum.org] or  775-6148, ext. 3219).
Can a book about Winslow Homer add to his legacy? Yes, it can, especially when rich biographical and historical material is linked to art produced in a specific place, namely Maine's rocky coast at Prouts Neck, and during a specific time, notably during the artist's late years when he went "all out" and literally "let himself go," transmitting the sea in its many moods and creating paintings that rank among American treasures. In 1883 Homer moved to Prouts Neck, where he lived until he died in 1910 at age 74. Twenty years earlier at age 54, he had created his first Prouts Neck marine painting.
Published in conjunction with the September 22-December 30, 2012, exhibition organized to mark the Portland Museum of Art's restoration and opening of Homer's studio at Prouts Neck, the book derives its name from the museum's 1894 oil painting Weatherbeaten. Editor Thomas Denenberg states, "The painting is an archetype, a new model marine. Born of Homer's penchant for firsthand, lived experience and close observation, the green ocean and gray sky signal that a storm has passed over while weather at sea pushes a wave to great height as it breaks over rocks close to Homer's studio."
This well-illustrated book, complete with a useful bibliography and helpful index, contains reproductions of many Homer masterpieces, both oil paintings and watercolors in major museum collections. It also includes copies of etchings and photographs of the studio and of Homer and maps of Prouts Neck. Through a series of scholarly essays by various experts, it tells a unique Homer story, one touching upon place, people, and time.
In "The Right Place," Kenyon Bolton discusses Homer's relationship to his family, in particular to his brother Charles. Bolton also details the development of Prouts Neck, where Homer's father had bought land. Prouts Neck was a farming and fishing community that was transformed to a summer resort in the 1870's.
In "North Atlantic Drift: A Meditation on Winslow Homer and French Painting," curator Erica E. Hirshler of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston tackles Homer's influences, including Millet. She brings the reader to understand Homer's journey leading to his marine paintings via references to the art he produced at Cullercoats in England, in which lonely figures of women are dramatically set against the sea.
In the essay "The Architecture of Homer's Studio," art historian James F. O'Gorman provides details on the transformation of the original Homer structure into a studio, the various changes involved in redesigning a carriage house, and the additions constructed over the years, during Homer's life and afterward. Included are references to Homer's surprisingly simple painting room and the structure's lack of windows. (Homer is quoted as saying that he "always painted direct from nature and in the open light of day" and went "over them in the studio and put them in shape.")
Art historian Marc Simpson tackles Homer's masterful marine paintings, quoting Homer, "You must not paint everything you see. You must wait, and wait patiently until the exceptional, the wonderful effect or aspect comes."
The opening of the Homer studio at Prouts Neck is a joyous event. This writer visited it prior to its restoration and found that walking the walk Homer must have walked on many occasions and in various climates was one of those exceptional "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences.
Impressions of Interiors: Gilded Age Paintings by Walter Gay by Isabel L. Taube (Frick Art & Historical Center, in association with D Giles Limited, 2012, 224 pp., hardbound, $55, or softbound, $34.95, plus S/H from the Frick Art & Historical Center, [www.thefrickpittsburgh.org] or  371-0600).
This profusely illustrated book serves as the catalog for a traveling exhibition of paintings of interiors by Walter Gay (1856-1937), an American expatriate painter who spent most of his life in France. Walter Gay and his wife, Matilda Travers, daughter of a wealthy New York attorney who made a vast fortune on Wall Street, were collectors and tastemakers who enjoyed high society on both sides of the Atlantic. A contemporary of John Singer Sargent, who recorded the clothes and jewels of high-society members, Gay painted portraits of their rooms furnished with silk wall coverings or rococo woodwork and hung with tapestries, old master paintings, and drawings.
In the 1890's Walter Gay decided to give up painting historical genre scenes and images of peasants, the large-scale works for which he had won medals in France, and to focus on small paintings of domestic scenes with opulent décor in the 18th-century taste embraced by his European friends and by the Americans he had left behind in New York and Boston. His wife called Gay's paintings poèmes d'intérieurs. Devoid of people, they caught the spirit of well-appointed private spaces. His most frequent subjects were his own houses in Paris and in the French countryside.
Using loose, fluid brushwork, Gay created small paintings filled with light streaming in from the windows or from a roaring fire in the fireplace. Gay did not work from photographs; he painted his impressions of actual rooms on location, sometimes touching them up in the studio afterward. They were not mere illustrations for interior decoration manuals; they have a lived-in quality, as if their occupants had just left, with papers on the desk and fires burning in the fireplaces.
By the time Walter Gay decided to concentrate on the empty room, the 19th-century tradition of watercolor interiors had reached its end. The "artful interiors" of the period by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, William Merritt Chase, and Alfred Stevens have people in them. Gay's empty rooms are designed around aesthetically pleasing ensembles, collections arranged to express the artist's own taste. Nina Gray calls Walter Gay's paintings "visual manuals of interior decoration and taste in keeping with the instructions set forth by [Edith] Wharton and [Elsie] de Wolfe," both of whom were his friends.
Although better known in Europe than in the U.S. during his career, Gay was commissioned by Henry Clay Frick's daughter Helen Clay Frick to paint three views of Frick's New York City residence at 1 East 70th Street. The Fragonard Room (with panels depicting "The Progress of Love"), The Boucher Room (with a bureau plat by Jean-Henri Riesener and Sèvres and Vincennes porcelain), and The Living Hall (with El Greco's St. Jerome over the fireplace flanked by two 16th-century portraits by Hans Holbein) are in the exhibition. Sarah Hall wrote the informative chapter on Walter Gay's work at the Frick residence. She found bills showing that Gay was paid $4000 each for the paintings in the late 1920's.
Respected American decorators, including Mark Hampton (1940-1988), Alexa Hampton, Michael Simon, and Charlotte Moss, have championed Walter Gay's paintings, and fashion designer Bill Blass (1922-2002) is among a long list of private collectors and museums who have acquired Gay's work. Priscilla Vail Caldwell, former director of American paintings at James Graham & Sons, New York City, organized a sold-out exhibition of Gay's work for the gallery in 2003. She wrote the book's chapter on Walter Gay and his patrons. Caldwell writes about Gay as a collection advisor to a number of American museums. He gave his own collection of drawings to museums in Boston, New York, and Paris. Caldwell says Gay's paintings "reveal the artist as connoisseur," and she describes him as a "student of the classics and a friend of the Aesthetic Movement…an artist, a gentleman, and a scholar."
The exhibition Impressions of Interiors: Gilded Age Paintingsby Walter Gay opened at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in October 2012 and continues there until January 6. It then moves to the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida, January 28-April 23.
I, Lobster: A Crustacean Odyssey by Nancy Frazier (University of New Hampshire Press, 2012, 264 pp., hardbound, $24.95 plus S/H from University Press of New England, [www.upne.com] or  421-1561).
In 2006 Nancy Frazier started a research project of looking for artwork featuring lobsters. Soon she had over 200 images, from ancient Roman wall mosaics to a surrealist drawing by Salvador Dali. She was then inspired to search for lobsters in literature, movies, photography, decorative arts, haute cuisine, and even high fashion.
In this book you'll find out why Mel Brooks cut a "Lobsters in New York" sequence from his film Silent Movie; you'll learn who collaborated with Elsa Schiaparelli on a full-length ball gown featuring a large silk lobster (and who wore the gown in a photo for Vogue); and you'll read why David Foster Wallace's 2003 review of the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet magazine caused such a stir. This is a quirky, amusing book that explores many diverse aspects of the ways that people think about, write about, portray, cook, and eat lobsters.
Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petershamby Lawrence Webster (WoodstockArts, 2012, 192 pp., hardbound, $39.50).
An interviewer once asked Maud and Miska Petersham if either of them had ever written or illustrated a book without the help of the other. They replied in unison, "We couldn't do that." The story of the Petershams "and the artful life they built together" over five decades is told in this charming book.
The Petershams were an unlikely couple. He was a Hungarian immigrant who spoke little English when he arrived at Ellis Island in 1912; she was the daughter of a Baptist pastor from upstate New York who persuaded her parents to let her attend art school in New York City after she graduated from Vassar College. They met at a commercial design studio in 1913, married in 1917, had a son in 1923, and in that same year started building a home in Woodstock, New York, that had a studio with a north-facing window. There they worked together for decades, illustrating and writing books during what some have called the golden age of children's book publishing.
Among the over 100 books that the Petershams produced was The Rooster Crows, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1946. The book is still in print, although several illustrations that were deemed in the 1960's to be demeaning to blacks were removed in later printings.
In the epilogue, Lawrence Webster suggests that "Maud and Miska's legacy of good work and of lives well lived is important today, when the pace of change is literally mind-blowing…." For those of us "surrounded by unfiltered stimulus and too much data and too many choices, the notion of steering one's life and work by a few fixed stars is not only comforting but useful."
Drama and Devotion: Heemskerck's Ecce Homo Altarpiece from Warsaw by Anne T. Woollett, Yvonne Szafran, and Alan Phenix (The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012, 112 pp., softbound, $25 plus S/H from Getty Publications, [www.getty.edu/publications] or  223-3431).
In about 1544 Jan van Drenckwaerdt, a leading citizen of Dordrecht, the Netherlands, commissioned Maerten van Heemskerck to create an altarpiece for his family's private chapel in the church of the Augustinian monastery in Dordrecht. The "wonderfully engaging altarpiece," equally dramatic and devotional in nature, was named the Ecce Homo("Behold the man") triptych. It depicts Jesus before Pilate and incorporates portraits of Drenckwaerdt and his second wife.
A beautiful foldout illustration of the triptych acts as a frontispiece in this catalog, which details Heemskerck's training in Rome and career in the Netherlands and the creation and near demise of the triptych. (It miraculously survived the Protestant upheavals in the mid-1500's.) Since 1946 the triptych has been in the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw, Poland. In 2010 it traveled to Los Angeles for conservation, done in conjunction with the Conservation Partnership program at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Large color illustrations compare the artistry in the triptych to Heemskerck's other known works and to works by other northern European artists. Detail shots of the triptych accompany text that thoroughly describes the technical examination and chemical analysis that was performed. The triptych is also illustrated in "before cleaning" and "after cleaning" shots. Overall, "the investigation of the Ecce Homotriptych adds to a growing body of knowledge regarding [Heemskerck's] technique, which had both traditional and innovative aspects for a Dutch painter of the time."
The catalog includes extensive endnotes, a bibliography, an illustration list, and an index. The triptych is on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles until January 13.
Native American Horse Gear: A Golden Age of Equine-Inspired Art of the Nineteenth Century by E. Helene Sage (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2012, 160 pp., hardbound, $49.99 from Schiffer Publishing, [www.schifferbooks.com] or  593-1777).
In a scholarly style E. Helene Sage discusses Native American equine accessories from the 19th century. A horsewoman who began "riding at the age of two," Sage has been an instructor, trainer, stable owner, and horse stunt double and has shown horses. After earning a Ph.D. in biological sciences, Sage strayed from horses for a time. She reunited with her equine interests when she began to collect antique carousel horses as well as Western and Native American horse gear. She wrote this book in "admiration and appreciation of Native American art in the context of the horse."
The author believes that this is the first book to cover horse tack and equipment as a single subject. The introduction includes an overview of horses, their origins, and how they were acquired and used by Native peoples. Material and construction techniques for the gear are also described.
It is impossible to be exhaustive in a book of this size, so the author has attempted to include relevant representative examples of bridles, saddles, saddle blankets, breastcollars and cruppers, quirts, saddlebags, masks, and equine imagery in utilitarian objects. Large photographs of gear, archival photographs of horses decked in ornamental tack (often with a mount), and other artwork depicting decorated Native American horses tie in with the informative and well-referenced text.
Sage focuses on the traditional, ceremonial, and utilitarian uses for the gear and describes any symbolic decoration. Finally, she makes a short summary and conclusions, writing that Native American "equine-inspired traditions are evident to this day." This well-researched and well-edited book includes a bibliography but not an index, which would have been useful.
Miller's 20th Century Designby Judith Miller (Miller's, 2012, 304 pp., hardbound, $19.99).
This "Definitive Illustrated Guidebook" is a "mini" edition of Judith Miller's larger books on design. It explores classic 20th-century design by designers from the "Birth of Modernism" to the "Postmodernism to Contemporary" age. Artists, movements, styles, companies, and industrial developments that influenced design are discussed and accompanied by color photographs of furniture, glass, sculpture, textiles, posters, and more. There are headshots of many of the featured artists.
In browsing this book, one can see the metamorphosis of design through the 20th century. A helpful list of names of designers and artists with their dates and specialty is included, as is a photo glossary of ceramic marks, an index, and a list of acknowledgments.
A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars, 4th Edition by Q. David Bowers (Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2012, 287 pp., softbound), and A Guide Book of Peace Dollars, 2nd edition by Roger W. Burdette with Barry Lovvorn (Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2012, 274 pp., softbound, each $19.95 from Whitman Publishing, [www.whitmanbooks.com] or  546-2995).
Leroy Van Allen states in the foreword to A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollarsthat the "Morgan silver dollar is presently one of the most widely collected of the U.S. coin series." A small price guide such as this has its limitations. Q. David Bowers points out in the chapter "The Tradition of Silver Dollars" that writing something "meaningful" on the history of the silver dollar in a few paragraphs "can't be done."
In 1993 he did write the two-volume Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia, which included "hundreds of pages" on the Morgan silver dollar. Despite that caveat, the price guide's nine chapters are packed with information, starting with the history of the Morgan and including collecting, grading, the marketplace, and specialized varieties.
The press release states that this edition includes a new chapter on errors and misstrikes, which has been added as an appendix. The bulk of the book focuses on the coins, offering a year-by-year analysis of coins organized by dates and mintmarks. An appendix on patterns, a glossary, chapter notes, a bibliography, and a few coin-related ads are found at the end.
The first edition of A Guide Book of Peace Dollars was reviewed in these pages in May 2009. The second edition is revised and updated with new market prices, but the text and photographs appear to be mostly unchanged. As with the Morgan silver dollar book and most Red Book guides, it is jam-packed with history about the coin along with collecting and market information. An appendix gives short biographies of people involved with the creation of the Peace Dollar, chapter notes, and a bibliography. The usual coin-related advertisements are there as well.
Guide Book of United States Currency: Fifth Edition: Large Size, Small Size, Fractional, compiled and edited by Kenneth Bressett (Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2012, 335 pp., softbound, $19.95 from Whitman Publishing, [www.whitmanbooks.com] or  546-2995).
This updated price guide features hundreds of illustrations of large- and small-size and fractional currency notes from every series, listed by Friedberg numbers. World War Two issues as well as uncut sheets and error notes are included. Prices are given for up to seven grades of currency. Introductory material includes condition/grading information plus advice on collecting and avoiding counterfeit currency. Back material includes a glossary, a bibliography, and related advertisements.
Collecting Matchbox Regular Wheels: 1953-1969, 2nd Edition by Charlie Mack (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2012, 136 pp., softbound, $29.99 from Schiffer Publishing, [www.schifferbooks.com] or  593-1777).
Written for serious Matchbox collectors, this second edition updates the prices for Matchbox series 1-75 regular wheels. It begins with a list of basic models and box types. Vehicles are then pictured, most with their boxes, in over 370 color photographs. Information includes the year of issue and a description of the vehicle; variations are noted or pictured as well. The book highlights each type of box the vehicles came in; they are pictured separately and shown throughout the book. The price ranges given are for mint and boxed examples.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2012 Maine Antique Digest