PRINT December 1984


Auguste Rodin, Art of the City, Art, Maps of the Heavens, and The Sketchbooks of Hiroshige

ELEVEN TOPICS ARE DISCUSSED in these conversations between Auguste Rodin and the critic Paul Gsell, set like a Socratic walk in the garden with the white-robed “Master” presenting his wisdom to a respectful chronicler. Mannered and self-righteous, Rodin expands about the true and the good, and if to our jaded sensibilities he sounds pompous, his stature allows him this. More readable than the long-winded earlier translation, this new English rendering is more than a period piece or a source for Rodin scholars. While it is hard to undo the memory of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Rodin piece, the sculptor has much to say and his range is almost as impressive as he himself obviously believed. A discussion of the work of Phidias and Michelangelo indicates his thorough knowledge of the past, and his comment on photography (“It is the artist who tells the truth and the photograph that lies. For in reality, time does not stand still.”) is still contemporary. By the time of Art’s first publication in 1911, Rodin was an established personage, obviously used to being listened to. He is still worth listening to in 1984.

Auguste Rodin, Art: Conversations With Paul Gsell, trans. Jacques de Caso and Patricia B. Sanders, introduction by Jacques de Caso (Berkeley: University of California Press), 148 pp., 16 black and white illustrations.


IN 1905, CONVINCED OF the importance of Japan’s culture, the editor/publisher of the Washington Star, Crosby Stuart Noyes, presented the Library of Congress with a sizable gift. Included were two sketchbooks by Hiroshige that have recently been reproduced, to size, in color, and in traditional accordion format. The brush images of the first volume allow us to eavesdrop on a special world of everyday pleasures and occupations; the second presents characters and events from Japan’s folklore. Throughout, placement and technique are masterly; a sophisticated distillation leaves nothing out, and the observation is keen yet unsentimental. These Ukiyo-e watercolors and ink sketches are filled with a delicate, paper-filtered light. A short introduction by Sherman Lee shows Hiroshige and his work in the context of the 19th-century Edo period, and commentaries on the plates introduce the cast of characters.

The Sketchbooks Of Hiroshige, introduction and commentary by Sherman E. Lee, foreword by Daniel J. Boorstin, 2 vols. (New York: George Brazier), 136 pp., 100 color plates.


A THOROUGHLY ENJOYABLE SAMPLING of the many creative minds who have, by using it, added dimension to New York. Any attempt to define this place with one voice would be to deny its contradictory complexity—that is, its power, to attract and repel. Peter Conrad rightfully calls it a “world city” and an “operatic” place. Beginning with Washington Irving’s tale-telling and Walt Whitman’s odes of praise, the book discusses New York and the work of Henry James, Edith Wharton, John Sloan, Edward Hopper, and Joseph Stella; a film from 1920 by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand (Mana hatta); the reactions of Federico Garcia Lorca (El Rey de Harlem), the guerrilla attacks of Diego Rivera, and photographs by Weegee, Walker Evans, and Berenice Abbott, among others. Surrealism, realism, futurism, Modernism come and go and come again, transformed by individuals who have shaped or have been shaped by the city. Conrad’s comment made in connection with John Dos Passos, about his sense of “proximity and estrangement,” is as good as any other explanation of New York’s contradictions. Art of the City is rich in its suggestion of vitality.

Peter Conrad, Art Of The City: Views And Versions Of New York (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press), 329 pp., 62 black and white illustrations.


THE STARS OF THIS LARGE book are the maps of the skies in which elements of faith and mental measure set distances and configurations. Without resort to fixed reference or survey Snyder’s text is there as long captions which put these visual alchemies in historical context. In the not so distant past astronomy and astrology were not poles apart, nor were art and science. While current space photography may be more correct, and has its own beauty, these somewhat more speculative explorations leave room for philosophy and conjecture, not to mention romantic fantasy.

George Sergeant Snyder, Maps Of The Heavens (New York: Abbeville Press), 143 pp., 25 black and white illustrations, 50 color plates.


Amy Baker Sandback is the executive publisher of Artforum.