This week: On Edwardian houses, Joan Thorne, early color photography & more.

Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, Russian settler’s family in the Mugan steppe,
Azerbaijan, ca. 1907–15, Composite photograph from three-color separation negative. 
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Installation view of “Joan Thorne: Light, Layers, Insight”
at the Barry Art Museum. Photo: Barry Art Museum.

“Joan Thorne: Light, Layers, Insight” at the Barry Art Museum, Norfolk, Virginia (through January 3, 2021): Joan Thorne’s abstractions run hot or cold. In both cases, these are paintings you can feel. With an ear for form and color, Thorne’s tumbling shapes and luminescent tones call out to be seen, heard, and sensed. A melody line whirls above compositions of jagged percussions, swirling strings, and radiating winds. Fortunately, “Light, Layers, Insight,” a career retrospective with thirty large works by this Soho-based painter, is back on view, with extended dates through January 3, 2021, at the Barry Art Museum on the campus of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Vittorio Colaizzi and Richard Vine provide essays for the catalogue; an online tour is available here. JP


Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, The Emir of Bukhara, 1911, Composite photograph 
from three-color separation negative. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Photographs by Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky at the Library of Congress: From 1909 to 1915, Tsar Nicholas II commissioned the chemist and inventor Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky to document the rich variety of cultures within the Russian Empire. Traveling with a specially built railroad-carriage darkroom, Prokudin-Gorsky brought with him an astonishingly accurate early color photography process, producing images every bit as lifelike—sometimes more so—than today’s digital photographs. He eventually amassed a collection of about 3,500 photographs of architecture, nature, and people from all walks of life, from Russian peasants in the fields to the Emir of Bukhara in his court finery. Prokudin-Gorsky had a keen eye for what needed to be documented at the dawn of a tumultuous century: a shocking number of the photographed churches and locales would be demolished or forcefully vacated just a few years later by the communists, to say nothing of the fate of the people. Luckily, Prokudin-Gorsky’s collection escaped an uncertain fate in the Soviet Union and eventually made its way into the able hands of the archivists at the Library of Congress. Visit their website to browse the collection (be sure to explore by subject here). For an excellent documentary on Prokudin-Gorsky (Russian with English subtitles), see here—IS


The Edwardians and their Houses: The New Life of Old England, by Timothy Brittain-Catlin (Lund Humphries): The word “Edwardian,” conjuring up, as it does, the pleasant lassitude of summer garden parties, has long done a disservice to the architecture of the period. Indeed, much Edwardian architecture has a restless element to it, despite being firmly rooted in the styles of the past. Think of the busyness of the Admiralty Arch, built by Aston Webb in 1912, or the aggressively Queen Anne–style house at No. 4 Cowley Street in Westminster. In The Edwardians and their Houses, Timothy Brittain-Catlin presents a new view of the architecture of the Edwardian period, asserting that the styles built were a direct reflection of the politics of the reigning Liberal Party politicians, many of whom were active builders in the era.  —BR

From the archive:

“The legacy of Friedrich Nietzsche,” by Roger Kimball (September 1991). On the world Nietzsche predicted and precipitated.


“Eric Gibson & James Panero discuss sculpture in exile & culture under siege.” A new podcast on the necessity of sculpture.


“A moment for myth,” by Andrew L. Shea. On “Kyle Staver” at Zürcher Gallery.

A Message from the Editors

Your donation sustains our efforts to inspire joyous rediscoveries.