This week: On Scottish art, Plymouth Colony, New York museums & more.
The Story of Scottish Art, by Lachlan Goudie (Thames & Hudson): Though the picture of Scotland internationally is seemingly monolithic—bagpipes, tartan, whisky—that is a vision originating more or less in the nineteenth-century Scotophilia of Queen Victoria. Indeed, Scotland has always been a fractious place, as the art produced there shows. In The Story of Scottish Art, out September 8 from Thames & Hudson, Lachlan Goudie, an artist himself, is an able guide to the history of art in Scotland, taking the reader from stone circles to Ian Hamilton Finlay and beyond, with many stops in between. —BR
New York museum reopenings: At long last, museums are starting to re-open in New York. Led by the Metropolitan Museum, which signaled its plans months ago, major institutions such as MOMA and the Whitney have followed suit in opening their doors to the public. Not everything’s back as it should be, as certain galleries were still closed at the Met when I visited on Thursday (Old Master European art, and American painting, for instance), but things seem to be moving in the right direction. Just be prepared to submit to a temperature check, wear a mask, and hold your nose as you walk under the doltish Yoko Ono banners draped across Richard Morris Hunt’s Fifth Avenue facade. —AS
The RCA Victor Living Stereo series: Across thousands of listening hours during my tenure as the Ralston Listening Library’s curator, the recordings I most consistently reached for to show off the room’s modern equipment came from RCA Victor’s six-decade-old Living Stereo imprint. These albums, of which the label released about two hundred between 1958–63, brought together RCA Victor’s seasoned stable of sound engineers, then-cutting-edge three-track stereo technology, and the notoriously exacting standards of the conductor Fritz Reiner and his Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which was riding an all-time high of musicianship. Give a listen to Reiner’s turns at Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Respighi’s Roman tone poems on YouTube—but do Reiner & co. justice afterwards and seek these recordings out on CD, and, if you can manage it, on reissued or original vinyl. —IS
They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty, by John G. Turner (Yale University Press). “Founding a colony was just about the most foolish thing a congregation or any other group of Europeans could do.” So writes John G. Turner in his new history of Plymouth, out in time for the quadricentennial of the Mayflower landing. What motivated these early settlers, especially through the misery and death of their first winter? Their particular separatist faith. “They knew they were pilgrims. . . and quieted their spirits,” explained Plymouth’s governor, William Bradford. Standing at Plymouth Rock two hundred years later, as Turner recounts, Daniel Webster saw fit to “record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labors; our admiration of their virtues; our veneration for their piety; and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty.” They Knew They Were Pilgrims tells this story anew through an even-keeled and extensive history. —JP
From the Editors:
“‘Sam Gilliam’ Review: Flowing Color, Billowing Canvas.”
By James Panero, The Wall Street Journal.
From the archive:
“The canon under siege,” by Mark Helprin (September 1988). On the politicization of literature in the academy.
“Music for a While #32: Gettin’ jiggy”. Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
“Globalization 1.0” by Paul du Quenoy. A review of The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World and Globalization Began, by Valerie Hansen.