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Colonial art

Books: a selection of the Art Institute of Chicago's holdings

Painting, design, and decorative arts from Colonial times until the Second World War

Unlike many catalogues, this one does not aim for completeness, but is, instead, a judicious selection of 186 items chosen from the Art Institute’s holdings, followed by a concise and helpful illustrated glossary of decorative arts terms. Seen from this side of the pond, the delights of Whistler and Mary Cassatt, and, perhaps, even Winslow Homer, need no introduction, but Raphaelle Peale and William L. Harnett’s eerily realistic still-lifes are likely to be less familiar. It is the early furniture and, to a lesser extent, the silver that is most appealing, however, for their combination of solidity and elegance. Frank Lloyd Wright also has a starring role as a furniture maker, but not everything inhabits the same elevated aesthetic heights. To single out one particularly grisly category, the nineteenth-century sculpture, in all honesty, is not for the squeamish.

Judith A. Barter, Kimberly Rhodes and Seth A. Thayer, American arts at the Art Institute of Chicago: from Colonial times to World War II (The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1999), 360 pp, 120 b/w ills, 220 col. ills, $65 (hb) ISBN 0865591725

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Judith A. Barter, Kimberly Rhodes and Seth A. Thayer, American arts at the Art Institute of Chicago: from Colonial times to World War II (The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1999), 360 pp, 120 b/w ills, 220 col. ills, $65 (hb) ISBN 0865591725'