- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 29, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0192842692
- ISBN-13: 978-0192842695
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.9 x 6.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Northern Renaissance Art (Oxford History of Art) 1st Edition
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brilliant overview. * Burlington Magazine * An excellent, in-depth overview exploring themes central to contemporary art history studies. * Kim Woods, The Open University * Nash weaves a broad, intricate tapestry of the cultures and material practices of art. * Joseph Leo Koerner, Harvard University *
About the Author
Susie Nash is senior lecturer in Northern Renaissance Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She is also the founder and director of the Courtauld Institute Summer School programme and has published widely on northern Renaissance art, including most recently a study of the famous Well of Moses by Claus Sluter.
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Despite the fact that it is widely used as a textbook for collegiate Art History classes, Northern Renaissance Art is nonetheless excellent and would be well worth reading for its own sake. Nash's main thesis caught me by surprise: 1) Northern artists and artistic output were in the ascendancy from the late 14th century through the 15th century; 2) Italy sought out Northern crafts and artistic items, which were viewed as highly desirable and unobtainable elsewhere; 3) Italian artists - Nash specifically mentions Michelangelo (!) – looked at and learned from Northern artists such as Memling and van Eyck, incorporating their stylistic approaches and techniques into their own work; and 4) it wasn’t until the 16th century that roles began to reverse, with Italian artists moving to the fore. To me this represents a rather dramatic reversal of decades of Italy-centric scholarship, in fact it turns the traditional narrative of a Florence-led Renaissance on its head. Apparently, however, this view has entered the mainstream in recent decades, which shows just how out of touch I am with trends in the scholarship (unsurprising since I last formally studied Art History in mid-70s).
Also, I had not fully appreciated the impact of Reformation iconoclasm on existing artworks in the early 1500s. Nash discusses how some artist's work was totally obliterated, while others are represented by only one or two pieces, which survived because they were luckily located in places like Spain or Italy. She estimates that in some locales as much as half of all existing art was destroyed, with the result that our current understanding is weirdly skewed in ways that we will never fully understand.
Northern Renaissance Art full of similar revelations and insights delivered with verve and enthusiasm. Five stars.
This strategy is not entirely cost-free: for Nash, art history rarely looks like intellectual history, and she does not convey a sense of tradition in style or iconography. At its most extreme, Nash's treatment calls to mind the old quip about the Annales school of social historians -- who, it was said, retold the story of the French revolution in pounds of candle wax. But on the whole it's a trade well worth making, and I heartily recommend Nash's book as a corrective and counterbalance to all the old graybeards who have trodden this ground in the past.
One fascinating detail I had been utterly unaware of, is that the art was movable: foldable wings, works hoisted and lowered during service, movable limbs on sculpture. The sense is that the art is not the stiff immovable things we see in museums, but art that was part of daily living and was not decoration but useful. The book is full of such surprises. There is consideration of technique, of market and buyers, and more. The art covered is primarily Flemish and Dutch, with some German and English, and a bit elsewhere. This is a superb book overall.