Thames & Hudson

The history of cinema began twice. All art forms are shaped by technological change, but the advent of the talkie in the late 1920s – only a few decades after the first silent films – did not so much develop the medium as kill it and replace it with something new. So abrupt was the change that the strange visual operas of cinema’s earliest years became imbued with a certain innocence, now almost impossible to replicate. To this day, silent film has an aura of mystery, a quality that cultural critic Peter Conrad addresses in his erudite new book.

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After The Australian Ugliness edited by Naomi Stead, Tom Lee, Ewan McEoin, and Megan Patty

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August 2021, no. 434

Robin Boyd was that rare thing, an architect more famous for a book than for his buildings.

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‘The tourist travels in his own atmosphere like a snail and stands, as it were, on his own perambulating doorstep to look at the continents of the world. But if you discard all this, and sally forth with a leisurely and blank mind, there is no knowing what may not happen to you.’ Thus, in 1928, British writer Freya Stark, an intrepid traveller, described the distinction between a traveller and a tourist. British historian Peter Furtado’s new anthology, Great Cities Through Travellers’ Eyes, is squarely aimed at the former. In it he collects the writings of a diverse group of writers about thirty-eight different cities, over a period dating from ancient times to the 1980s (more on that later). Some writers, such as Marco Polo, Hans Christian Anderson, and Simone de Beauvoir, are well known, others less so.

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A year after her death, Mirka Mora is still regarded as a ‘phenomenon’ in the Melbourne art world, not least for her vibrant personality and provocative behaviour. Now Sabine Cotte, a French-Australian painting conservator, in this modest account of her research into the artist’s methods and materials, offers a new perspective on Mora’s creative process and the significance of her work.

Mora – a creative innovator until her death at the age of ninety – was a dedicated, self-taught artist who studied the Old Masters and refined her painting techniques. She is widely known for her dolls (soft sculptures), her tapestries, and her murals. People who took part in her textile workshops often report that she changed their lives. Her public art is still visible in cafés, bookshops, railway stations, and on St Kilda Pier, guaranteeing her a continuing presence in Melbourne’s cultural and social life.

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Giotto’s frescoes invite us to ponder the nature of what we instinctively, conveniently, but not very satisfactorily call realism. Compared to the work of his predecessors, these images have a new kind of material presence. Bodies become solid, take on mass and volume, and occupy space ...

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The story of art could be framed as a narrative of tension between the boundless creative imagination of artists and the practical limitations – including instability, scarcity, even toxicity – of their materials. As master paint-maker David Coles explains in this wonderful book ...

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This well-illustrated volume documents through its analysis of art exhibitions the massive rise of Australia’s art gallery attendances over a period of more than forty years. Before the late 1960s, only a few hundred thousand people visited Australian galleries each year ...

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What makes a good architectural photograph? In an ideal world, it is the product of a dialogue between the architect’s intentions for his or her building; the built form and its synergy with its environment; and the photographer’s ability to interpret these elements in a creative and dynamic way. A successful photograph should offer a clear visual representation of a building, but it should also capture its defining spirit. And there is one final element which often remains an unspoken, if fundamental, part of this process: the role of photography in ‘selling’ a building. So it is interesting that this large book celebrating the work of John Gollings begins with a quote by the great American architectural photographer Julius Shulman, which states, in part, ‘the truth is that I am a merchandiser. I sell architecture better and more directly and more vividly than the architect does.’

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Verdi and/or Wagner by Peter Conrad & Great Wagner Conductors by Jonathan Brown

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June 2012, no. 342

Two households. Two household names. Verdi and Wagner. To the north of the Alps, Haus Wahnfried, the Wagner compound in the otherwise unremarkable Bavarian town of Bayreuth. To the south of the Alps, Sant’Agata, the Verdi farmhouse outside Busseto, a marshy and little-visited corner of Emilia-Romagna. The respective residences reveal something of their owners’ personalities and priorities. For Giuseppe Verdi, Sant’Agata was a retreat; a place where he could escape from the hubbub of Milan, plant trees, grow vegetables, go fishing, tend livestock, and oversee his tenant farmers. For Richard Wagner, Wahnfried was headquarters of the greater Wagnerian project; a place to compose, write pamphlets, receive visitors, tend to his personality cult, and oversee his band of disciples.

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The author of this handsomely produced volume claims in his opening sentence, ‘The sex lives of celebrities (and the less famous) always excite the curiosity of others.’ For the sake of his book he’d better be right, because what follows are more than eighty gay histories and/or partnerships, each moving inexorably to the matter of sexual orientation and declaration – reluctant or otherwise. Aldrich is probably right. Think of all those journals whose covers you browse while waiting in the supermarket queue, inviting you to speculate on, say, the vicissitudes of Brangelina. Recent political controversies about gay marriage rights or the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy of the US armed forces provide a contemporary context for Aldrich.

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