PositiveNew YorkerCross’s scrupulous new book is devoted to Homer as both man and artist and is largely a pleasure to read, despite the inevitable difficulties of the subject: call him repressed; call him, as Cross does, \'a misfit by nature\' or even a \'human periscope,\' who liked to observe others without being seen. Cross tries to circumvent these difficulties by placing the life in a wider context, particularly in Homer’s early years ... How the young man managed such personal and political discord is unknown. Cross, whose scruples sometimes lead to a Homer-like reticence, refuses even to ask questions ... Cross seeks to provide a wider context, and while the material remains thin, one is grateful for every scrap that shows Homer living as a painter among painters ... Cross’s portrayal of Homer, as contemporary as the Met’s, emphasizes his \'empathy with Blacks and Native Americans.\' The latter part of the statement is not untrue, although Homer’s contact with Native Americans was limited: a Montaukett chief on Long Island whom he met (and painted) in 1874—Cross relates that Homer’s wealthy uncle swindled the tribe out of land—and Indigenous guides hired to lead a fishing trip he took with his older brother in Quebec, people whose work in making canoes he documented and admired. These paintings have never been well known, and Cross’s contribution here is particularly fresh.
PositiveThe New Yorker\"Mary Gabriel’s timely and ambitious new book, Ninth Street Women, provides a multifaceted account of the five odds-defying female artists who travelled from Ninth Street to the Museum of Modern Art and beyond. Gabriel warns at the start that her seven-hundred-page text lacks \'traditional biographical detail\'; instead, it is a widely roving group portrait, evoking an entire era and aspiring to explain it ... Fortunately, Gabriel lets the political thesis fade as events take over and the immediacy of these lives becomes all-engrossing ... The development of a culture is deeply consequential, and its story—even a very specialized piece of its story—requires no apologies or augmentation. And this piece of the art-world story happens to be very exciting, as brought to life in the balance of Gabriel’s rich, serious-minded, and (in a good way) sometimes gossipy book ... Giving due weight to these episodes does not gainsay Gabriel’s essential point about our heroines’ strength but, rather, allows them their fears and complexities, and underscores the harsh and sometimes deforming cultural forces they were up against.\
PositiveThe New YorkerFor all the unfamiliar challenges this book presents, in terms of history and culture, Isaacson is working a familiar theme. As always, he writes with a strongly synthesizing intelligence across a tremendous range; the result is a valuable introduction to a complex subject ... The most up-to-date if occasionally dismaying aspect of the book is its framing as a self-help guide, along the lines of 'How Leonardo Can Change Your Life' ... Most important, Isaacson tells a powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life, which is rewarding even if it doesn’t set you on the path to enlightenment.
PositiveThe New YorkerDespite the book’s often harrowing content, and Bishop’s lifelong drive toward alcoholic self-obliteration, Marshall’s account is lively and engaging, charged with vindicating energy ... It’s an odd but compelling structure, as the reader watches the two women’s lives converge, and it allows for some closeup glimpses of Bishop as a teacher ... Marshall makes a strenuous case for Bishop’s social enlightenment, and argues that, while Bishop indeed lived a life of privilege in Brazil, she was nevertheless 'an outsider, a dependent whose trust fund met only basic expenses'—a rationale that may make one queasier than anything in the poems.
PositiveThe New Yorker“Wieland is shrewd, though, about her subjects and has done serious work in German archives, producing documents—a reassuring letter from Riefenstahl to Albert Speer, in 1944, predicting a 'great turning point in this war'; an unpublished memoir by Riefenstahl’s inconveniently Jewish early lover-financier; several Dietrich letters—that give her book credibility, texture, and unending interest.”