These are brief reviews of books recently sent to us. We have included ordering information for publishers that accept mail, phone, or online orders. For other publishers, your local bookstore or a mail-order house is the place to look.
Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party by Eliza E. Rathbone (D Giles Limited, 2017, 144 pp., hardbound, $34.95 plus S/H from Consortium Book Sales and Distribution,
This book accompanies the exhibition on view through January 7, 2018, at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. The book focuses on a singular masterwork and uses over 40 supporting artworks from public and private collections to reveal the story of Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Fascinating is perhaps an overworked word, but that describes this in-depth presentation.
Being a fan of Edmund de Waal, who wrote about his family, the Ephrussis, in The Hare with Amber Eyes, I eagerly read the essay by Sara Tas, “The Elusive Charles Ephrussi: Collector, Critic, and Patron of the Arts.” Also, as a boating fan I felt particularly enchanted by research into that aspect of this story. Yet all of this enticing history of a beloved Impressionist painting enchants art appreciators. Finding your own entry of appreciation with this book as an aid is recommended. It is proof that masterful art rewards deep looking, repeatedly, through decades and beyond.
Eliza E. Rathbone is chief curator emerita at The Phillips Collection. Other contributors to the book are Mary Morton, Sylvie Patry, Aileen Ribeiro, Elizabeth Steele, and Sara Tas.
Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master by Paul Singer and Alan Singer (RIT Press, 2017, 178 pp., hardbound, $60 plus S/H from RIT Press, [www.rit.edu/press] or  475-5819).
It’s a good day when asked to review a new book from RIT Press, which is known for its high-quality production of books with long-lasting appeal. This time I felt welcomed into a deeper acquaintance with an artist whose good spirit flows through the words of his artist sons and others who knew and worked with him but especially by looking carefully at the reproductions of wildlife art he created. As a botanical artist of lichens, I say with authority that Arthur Singer can serve as an inspiration through this book. Any reader can find delight in these pages in Singer’s attractive company, while also learning about a section of 20th-century art that is often slighted or underappreciated.
Starting at age five, Arthur Singer (1917-1990) loved to draw, and he soon discovered watercolor, a medium he mastered. Jazz was his muse. In his youth he formed strong bonds with other artists and with musicians in New York City, and he was loyal to his business collaborators. The chapters chart the course of his career, including his time in the U.S. Army unit known as the “Ghost Army,” as a Cooper Union School of Art student, his work as an illustrator for Birds of the World and for the best-selling Birds of North America (Golden Press) and many other books, his family life and travels, and his legacy of unpublished art, some of which is presented among the abundant illustrations for this biography. His oil paintings with strong compositions have been exhibited and collected, naturally, and are gathered here as appropriate illustrations. In the later part of his career he received numerous awards, which are mentioned with accompanying photographs. The index is helpful to find and review images.
Though he photographed wildlife, especially birds, with professional rigor, he used his photos as a reference tool, not something to imitate. He stated in an interview in 1978: “Nature is never static. If you watch wildlife through binoculars you can see multitudes of happenings, and with my camera…I can catch as many as four shots per second…movements or attitudes that are short-lived…. Wildlife painting should not be an imitation of photography. A realistic portrayal of the bird in its native habitat is necessary, but design and selectivity are also very important. …I spend a great deal of time on preparatory sketches before I decide on the one [position] that most successfully combines both aspects.” He strove for accuracy and aliveness in portrayal.
Wedgwood: A Story of Creation & Innovation by Gaye Blake-Roberts, with contributions by Alice Rawsthorn,
OBE (Rizzoli, 2017, 295 pp., hardbound, $60).
This beautiful book on Wedgwood features well-written and engaging essays by Alice Rawsthorn and Gaye Blake-Roberts about the appeal of Wedgwood pottery, Josiah Wedgwood, his life, and the history of his pottery business. It is also a pictorial design history with examples from the early years of production to today. Large full-color images of the wide variety of Wedgwood designs are captioned, some with mini essays. Although the full-page and sometimes double-page spreads are visually pleasing, captions are often on the pages before or after, which requires some flipping of pages to connect the correct caption with its items. Archival images from pattern books and catalogs are reproduced in the center of the book in a lighter-weight matte-finish paper—a texturally creative design element.
A time line and glossary are included, but there is no index. This book is a fascinating look at the beauty and craftsmanship of Wedgwood pottery and at the good business acumen and community stewardship of Josiah Wedgwood, whom Rawsthorn describes as “courageous, shrewd, and never complacent.” Most fascinating are the trial tags that show how arduously Wedgwood worked to perfect his technique for creating jasperware.
Darlings of Dress: Children’s Costume 1860-1920 by Norma Shephard (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2017, 192 pp., hardbound, $34.99).
This delightful book looks at children’s dress from 1860 to 1920, including its history, changes in styles, and the cultural influences that helped to create them. Norma Shephard presents all this in an enjoyable read that includes interesting facts and stories alongside the history. In the introduction, Shephard declares that “costume helps shape individual and collective identity while providing very real physical defense against the elements. Costume is more intimately connected to the human experience than any other artifact; indeed, period garments bear witness…[to] those who have gone before.”
For each decade, Shephard discusses the cultural influences and gives a style retrospective. Each chapter is illustrated with period advertising pieces, vintage cabinet card photographs of “darling” children, and articles of clothing, shoes, bonnets, collars, and other accessories that illustrate the styles discussed. She acknowledges that clothing material and styles were influenced by war, literature, technology, music, transportation, agriculture, geography, chemistry, religious mores, commerce, and “sometimes pure chance.”
One example she gives of the influence of literature was the popularity of dressing boys in the style of Little Lord Fauntleroy after the publication of the book (and a later movie adaptation) of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who apparently gave the illustrator photos of her son dressed in a velvet tunic trimmed in lace as a guide. Shephard writes, “American mothers clamored to dress their sons in the style of the little aristocrat.”
This book also helps with terminology. There is a glossary, but she names certain items within the text and in captions that may be new to the uninitiated. (For example, I had never heard a floppy hair bow called a “Dolly Dingle bow.”) There are no values given, but the author does expound on the valuable memories that children’s clothing can call up, especially for mothers, which may explain why baby and children’s clothes often were (and are still) packed away for saving.
The author has written other books on clothing and accessories: Accessorizing the Bride: Vintage Wedding Finery through the Decades; 1,000 Hats; In Step with Fashion: 200 Years of Shoe Styles; and Lingerie: Two Centuries of Luscious Design. She has presented costume exhibitions and is the founder of the Mobile Millinery Museum, with a focus on hats, based in Ontario. You may find out more at (http://mobilemillinerymuseum.blogspot.com).
Wartime Quilts: Appliqués and Geometric Masterpieces from Military Fabrics from 300 BC to WWII by Annette Gero (The Beagle Press, 2015, 228 pp., hardbound, $69 plus S/H from The American Folk Art Museum, [www.folkartmuseum.org] or  595-9674).
This well-illustrated book accompanies the first exhibition in the U.S. to highlight quilts made by men during times of war. The exhibition, at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City through January 7, 2018, was organized in collaboration with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where it will be shown from May through September 2018. The book features quilts from the author’s collection and other quilts from public and private collections throughout the world.
Dr. Annette Gero, who co-curated the exhibit, writes about pictorial quilts depicting soldiers and geometric masterpieces made from uniform fabrics by soldiers, sailors, and tailors. Some were made using an ancient technique called intarsia or inlaid, mosaic, or Silesian piecing. In intarsia, the appliqué is cut to the same size as a hole in the backing fabric, dropped into the backing fabric, and stitched from the back to create a perfectly smooth top. There are no seam allowances, so the patchwork looks the same from front and back.
Gero explains that she uses the word “quilt” in this book as a generic term meaning patchwork, and the majority of the quilts in the book are tops or coverlets that have no padding or quilting. They are “simply a very old form of patchwork, many made before the American Declaration of Independence and before Australia was a British Colony.”
The earliest quilt illustrated is the Great Pazyrick Felt, circa 300 B.C.E., from southern Siberia, now in the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. It is the largest surviving textile of this kind (177" x 256"). It has two rows of figures and is thought to have been used as a room divider.
The author delights in showing regional differences in quilts. For example, an 1803-05 English coverlet showing George III reviewing his troops in 1799 is made from printed cotton pieced over papers with many tiny pieces of fabrics, while one likely made in Prussia to celebrate the marriage of King George III and Queen Charlotte is made of heavy felted wool butted together in the intarsia technique. Even though the marriage quilt has a long history of ownership in England, Gero notes that it has all the characteristics of a European intarsia.
Gero compares two quilts attributed to Michael Zumpf, 1870-72, London and Bohemia, each with a central image taken from a print of a painting of the House of Commons. Both quilts are made from military uniforms in surprisingly bright colors, and the outer borders are finely inlaid with multicolored flowers. Gero says these quilts were called “picture hangings” or “clothographs” and notes that the technique with which they were made is similar to Prussian quilts.
Some Prussian quilts from the Napoleonic War period were found in Australia, where they were taken by Prussians and Silesians who settled in Adelaide and Queensland in the 1830s to 1850s. One dated 1806 has a double-headed eagle and an illustration of a German folk tale of the fox who stole the goose. The author says she has found no evidence that the techniques of the Prussians and Silesians influenced quilters in the U.S. or in Australia.
Crimean War quilts, which have been found in Australia, England, the U.S., and Canada, were made from the tiniest pieces of wool and sewed by hand, making use of fabrics used in battle and from dress uniforms of serge and worsted twill, which is hard to sew. The author believes that they were always made by men, who often appliquéd flowers, leaves, and cutout heart motifs. British personnel in India also made similar quilts between 1850 and 1900 from a colorful potpourri of service uniforms. Quilts from World War I and World War II include make-do quilts made by women for the war effort, woolen army quilts made by men, and quilts made by prisoners of war and in concentration camps using bedclothes and inmates’ clothing.
Quilts made from epaulettes are illustrated, as is a quilt made of cigarette silks with portraits of famous people. Signature quilts were sometimes fund-raiser quilts, and the book includes a crazy quilt made of khaki uniform material in the early 20th century that seems very contemporary.
Gero contends that the most famous World War II quilts made by women are three (and possibly a fourth) made by English and Australian nurses and civilians interned by the Japanese in Changi Prison in Singapore from 1942 to 1944. Women embroidered their names on quilt blocks in order to inform relatives they were alive. Three of these quilts survive; one is at the British Red Cross Museum & Archives in London, and two are at the Australian War Memorial Museum in Campbell, A.C.T. The whereabouts of the alleged fourth is unknown.
Gero writes that the “sources of these quilts have been as fascinating as the quilts themselves,” which include a Crimean War quilt purchased for 30p at a jumble sale in England and a 1719-dated intarsia quilt found in a bookshop in Vienna. This well-traveled Australian quilt historian has given us an exhibition about a quilt tradition and a book about a collection of quilts that tell special stories.
Miller’s Antiques Encyclopedia, Judith Miller, general editor (Miller’s, 2017, 592 pp., hardbound, $55).
This tome is a general reference on a wide range of antiques categories, from furniture to toy trains and design styles. Each category has a descriptive history and relevant information about makers, materials, cultural influences, etc. It features sidebars listing “Key Facts.” The color photographs of pieces that exemplify each category have captions and a price range identifier that refers to a price key in the front.
There is a “Where to Buy” explanation along with a short directory of U.K. and U.S. dealers, shows, and antiques associations and a glossary, bibliography, and index. The furniture segment begins the book and includes line drawings of types of tables, chairs, joints, chair backs, furniture legs and feet, drawer/cupboard pulls, as well as wood identification and decoration styles. This fifth edition in a series begun in 1998 provides a good overview of the many kinds of antiques available to buy, sell, and collect.
Miller’s Antiques Handbook & Price Guide: 2018-2019 by Judith Miller (Miller’s, 2017, 600 pp., hardbound, $45).
The latest price guide from Miller’s includes 8000 photographs of antiques and collectibles with brief descriptions and auction price ranges. From large categories of porcelain to posters, with subcategories within, this price guide is a quick off-the-shelf reference to identify and gain an idea of what is selling and for how much at auction houses, primarily in the U.K. and U.S. and a few elsewhere.
Each item has a code indicating which auctioneer provided the information. We noted a few errors in the auction house directory as to where the houses are located; the auctioneer directory provides only websites (or phone numbers) and no descriptions. “Closer Look” and “Judith’s Picks” sidebars highlight detailed features of certain antiques. There are eight ads scattered throughout the book from dealers and auctioneers. An index as well as header and margin tabs help in searching for categories and items.
Samurai Swords: A Collector’s Guide: A Comprehensive Introduction to History, Collecting and Preservation by Clive Sinclaire (Tuttle Publishing, 2017, 192 pp., hardbound, $29.95 plus S/H from Tuttle Publishing, [www.tuttlepublishing.com], 1-800-526-2778).
Perhaps the fraternity of sword collectors is small, but this history of swords in Japanese culture includes collecting tips, preservation information, and detailed insight into the discipline of creating swords. Sinclaire writes with clarity and resounding knowledge on the subject. At the beginning of the chapter “Swords: Types, Construction, and Testing,” he states: “According to Shintoism, the old religion of Japan based on nature, everything in the world has a spiritual aspect, even the mountains and forest, the rivers and rocks of the country, and these spirits are called the kami. …It is the swordsmith who brings all these elements together. With his labor and spirit, and aided by the kami, he is able to create a thing of outstanding beauty and mystical power.”
In this book, published in 2009 and reissued in 2017, Sinclaire takes you on the most thorough of journeys and provides a realistic, helpful guide to appreciating and collecting these blades from ancient, antique, and contemporary sources. He even shares the proper etiquette of attending a showing of them. He explains the furnishings and proper storage for them and provides an appendix for transliterations of periods, provinces, and swordsmiths’ names. Fully illustrated, erudite, and well edited, this is a fine guide. “Many collectors like me are introduced to the sword via the practice of Japanese martial arts…. Once bitten, we find the fascination can easily take a firm hold of both the collector and his wallet.”
Cuba: 101 Beautiful & Nostalgic Places to Visit by Michael Connors (Rizzoli, 2017, 304 pp., hardbound, $50).
This book takes readers on an armchair trip through Cuba with gorgeous photographs by Jorge Laserna that highlight the landscape, architecture, and culture of this beautiful and richly historic island country. An introductory essay provides a history, from Spain’s settlement and domination to Barack Obama’s work to restore a better relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. The captions further explore the cultural, agricultural, historic, and artistic significance of each photographed scene. The book is organized into areas: eastern Cuba, central Cuba east and west, western Cuba, and Havana. Readers may be inspired to visit Cuba personally, despite travel warnings.
The Vancouver Victory by Robin Williams (Hampshire Antiques Ltd., 2017, 282 pp., softbound, $19.95 plus S/H from [www.hampshireantiques.com]).
This is the fourth novel in the mystery series by Robin Williams, managing director of Hampshire Antiques Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia. It brings back Frank Ball, the owner of Vancouver’s fictional Regency Antiques, and his staff in another antiques-themed mystery. The plot revolves around the artworks of Septimus Odell, who is a rising star in the local art world, the missing contents of a valuable estate, a winner in the Canadian lottery, and a suspicious death.
Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh: Artist and Ornithologist by Patricia H. Burke (Patricia H. Burke, 2017, 172 pp., hardbound, $60 plus S/H from Patricia Burke, <[email protected]>).
Patricia Burke, former curator of the Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission and director of the Toms River (New Jersey) Seaport Society and Maritime Museum, has done original research into the life of Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh (1856-1915), a lesser-known self-taught artist and ornithologist who lived and worked in New Jersey. He developed an interest in art and in birds as a young adult. His output includes naturalistic sporting pictures of birds, fish, dogs, and landscapes, primarily of the New Jersey shore around Bay Head and other towns.
This book offers 180 illustrations and a gallery of over 100 of his paintings, oils and watercolors, illustrations, Haviland plate designs, and more. There are also period photographs of Hardenbergh and family members. This beautiful coffee-table book holds a treasure-trove of information about this artist and his family heritage and will introduce this “talented but unassuming artist” to collectors.
Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo by Alan Scott Pate (Tuttle Publishing, 2008, 272 pp., hardbound, $24.95 plus S/H from Tuttle Publishing, [www.tuttlepublishing.com], 1-800-526-2778).
This 2008 book was republished this year, but there is no indication as to the updates (if any) that were made. With the rise in interest in Asian antiques and collectibles, it seems to be a perfect time to reissue a book about Japanese ningyo, especially to generate interest for would-be collectors.
Pate begins with a look at the history of collecting Japanese dolls and goes on to describe seven types of dolls, based on materials and cultural use and meaning. He concludes with practical information on where to buy ningyo (disclaimer: Pate is a dealer in Asian art and Japanese dolls), how to care for them, and where to see displays and dealers. This informative book with more than 400 full-color photos of ningyo is worth a look for more information on collecting these artistic and culturally significant dolls.
The Tangled Web: The Spoils of War in the Hands of Good and Evil by Kenneth Ricklefs (Trafford Publishing, 2015, 353 pp., softbound, $20.33).
This novel (the author’s first) is by a retired antiques dealer who served in the Army Air Force and had a career in commercial art illustration and advertising. Set in the present, the story has its roots at the end of World War II, when two Allied soldiers stumble across a treasure in the French forest. The choices that they make have an impact on not only their own lives but on those of their descendants for years. The novel follows the families of the soldiers as they unravel the web of greed and deception that continues to affect them.
Originally published in the December 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest