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The Ephemeral Museum: Old Master Paintings and the Rise of the Art Exhibition Hardcover – November 10, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The late Oxford art historian Haskell (Patrons and Painters, etc.) produced permanently valuable books on the social climates that produced great art in earlier centuries. This study is based on various lectures, and was put into final shape by Haskell's coauthor on Taste and the Antique, Nicholas Penny. It describes how international blockbuster museum exhibits aroseDfrom 17th-century "old master" retrospectives in Italy and the bureaucratic "salons" of France beginning in the 18th century, to the 19th-century nationally based shows (Rembrandt in Amsterdam) and today's global extravaganzasDalong with some of their worst excesses. In nine chapters devoted to specific exhibits, Haskell goes behind the scenes, delving through miles of source material to explain the political context for many of the shows. In a striking chapter, "Botticelli in the Service of Fascism," he describes a landmark 1930 London exhibit of Italian art that turned into a propaganda platform for Mussolini. Haskell is openly horrified at the risks museum directors now habitually run in order to win brownie points with their trustees and other art world honchos, putting their irreplaceable artworks in harm's way: "Miles above us jets speed through the skies carrying their freight of Titians and Poussins, Van Dycks and Goyas." Throughout, Haskell's clear prose brings what is often a highly detailed and specialist discussion into clear focus, though it won't make it much past the art and art historical worlds. (Dec.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Major museums around the world are kept afloat by what has come to be called the "blockbuster" exhibition, featuring Old Masters, popular movements such as Impressionism, or retrospectives of key individual artists. In this last work by renowned art historian Haskell (Patrons and Painters, Past and Present in Art & Taste, History and Its Images), who passed away last January, we are treated to the origins of this form of curatorship. Scholarly in tone, the book traces Old Master exhibitions, country by country beginning in the late 1700s. Until the early 1900s, aristocrats and national museums were reluctant to loan works of art, documentation was often inaccurate, and the images were hung close together, sometimes with little consideration for chronology or artistic school. Nevertheless, with the charging of admission as well as catalog sales, these exhibits were generally very successful. One of the few sources to describe the evolution of exhibition catalogs, this book will probably appeal most to students of art history and museum studies but also may be of interest to readers in the social sciences. Best suited for academic libraries.ASusan Lense, Upper Arlington P.L., OH
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (November 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300085346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300085341
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #716,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I was particularly interested in how old master exhibitions have evolved to the present date. This book does a great job of tracing the history of old master exhibitions but fails to even mention the old master blockbuster exhibitions in the second half of the 20th century. The cover image features the National Gallery's recent Vermeer exhibition but it's not even mentioned in the book. I know Mr. Haskell passed away in Jan 2000 so perhaps he may not have been able to complete the chronology prior to the book's publication.
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