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The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography Hardcover – November 10, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Slp edition (November 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300076118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300076110
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 10.2 x 12.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,001,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Simulacrum on May 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
"Remember," wrote the British art critic John Ruskin in 1853, "that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance." When a peacock unfolds its plumage, the eyespots on its feathers form exact logarithmic spirals, like those in a daisy, a pinecone, and a sunflower. Twenty years later, Ruskin's remark inspired the Aesthetic Movement ("Art for art's sake"), of which the chief proponents were the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde and the American painter James A.M. Whistler. Wilde sometimes wore a sunflower in his lapel; and Whistler, as is documented in this thoroughly researched and richly illustrated volume (with 250 illustrations, nearly half in color), created an opulent dining room for London businessman Frederick Leyland, with peacocks as the main motif. Completed amid controversy in 1877, Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room was dismantled and sold after Leyland's death, and, in 1923, reconstructed in the U.S. at the Freer Gallery of Art, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution, where it remains on view. A key event in design history, it was restored physically in 1989 through 1992; and now this book restores it historically, thereby "dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions that had settled over the story like mantles of aging varnish." As a cultural biography, the book's greatest virtue is its breadth of focus: Just as Whistler's interior served as an elaborate setting for Leyland's Chinese porcelain collection, Merrill provides a rich wide factual setting for the Peacock Room. (Copyright © by Roy R. Behrens from Ballast Quarterly Review, Vol. 14 No. 3, Spring 1999.)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Addicted to text on November 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a thorough history of the social and cultural influences on James McNeil Whistler's work. The plates of his paintings and of this room are magnificent.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Terrence Davis (tdavis@lkp.co.za) on January 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is an erudite investigation into the life styles of both Whistler and his patron Frederick Richards Leyland. Whilst being essentially an art book, it deals with its subject matter in a lively mannner which could well form the basis of a movie script.
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