Sister Wendy's catholic view of art is as rare as her insightful view of Western religious painting. The work she admires is startlingly diverse, embracing Paul Revere's silver and a bodhisattva from Pakistan, an Issey Miyake metallic polyester dress and a Mayan vase, not to mention paintings by artists as remote in style and vision as John Singer Sargent and Joan Mitchell. Sister Wendy's American Collection
is a highly selective tour through six major U.S. museums: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. To frequent museumgoers, her choices initially can seem charmingly arbitrary--until they begin to inspire the urge to check out those galleries again.
With a page or two allotted to each art work (short essays in large type and 250-odd modestly sized illustrations), this is a friendly book to curl up with, as unpretentious as Sister Wendy herself. Anyone looking for detailed art historical information will be disappointed by her tendency to coast on a thimbleful of facts, yet her gift for plainspoken rapture about art remains intact on the page.
When she singles out from the Met's vast collections an Ottoman sultan's elegant logo with its "small paradise" of painted flowers, when she peers at the tense body of the young cheat in Caravaggio's The Cardsharps at the Kimbell, or ambles along the length of a Sung dynasty landscape painting at the Cleveland museum, that's when Sister Wendy proves the value of close, patient looking as a contemplative act. --Cathy Curtis
From Library Journal
Sister Wendy Beckett strikes again with this discussion of works in six of America's renowned art museums, singing high praise for her choices. The enthusiastic art critic includes a variety of media paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, armor, and other art objects and the individual works originate from a dizzying array of time periods and several countries. The main criterion Sister Wendy uses for selection (a daunting task since most of the museums possess over half a million pieces) is how the particular work moves her. She allots two pages to each piece, giving tidbits of information regarding its history and technique, some fun insights, and brief biographies of the artists. The text is readable and enjoyable. This entertaining introduction to some of the country's best museum holdings serves well as art appreciation and as a guide to the featured museums; the PBS series this spring will also increase interest. Recommended for public libraries. Jennifer Mayer, Univ. of Wyoming Libs., Laramie
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