The Daily Heller: When the Bough Breaks, the Art World Moves On

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If there is one big, dense, well-designed, informative and profusely illustrated book to buy this summer (or fall, winter or spring), it is this: Genealogies of Art, or the History of Art as Visual Art, the catalog of the eponymous exhibition from Fundacion Juan March (October 2019 to January 2020) and Museo Picasso Málaga (February to May 2020).

This bookalogue—ambitiously edited by Manual Fontán del Junco, José Lebrero Stals and María Álvarez, splendidly written and exquisitely designed by Guillermo Nagore—is the answer to any art and design historian’s prayers.

A masterpiece of research and erudition, it thoroughly addresses the various visual efforts to trace and document the families, movements and schools of art through photographic assemblages, charts, graphics and an array of family trees, dating back to the Middle Ages, through 20th-century Modernism and beyond. For me, a primary example is MoMA pioneering curator Alfred H. Barr Jr.’s notations and hand-drawn sketches (c. 1928–1936) for the museum’s “Cubism and Abstract Art” catalog (1936), which remains essential today (especially juxtaposed with Daniel Ferals’ “Graffiti and Street Art,” done to mimic the MoMA cover). Also included are scores of known and less-known information graphics that trace the evolution of all manners of art, such as the famous “How to See …” comics by painter Ad Rhinehardt, and caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias’ “The Tree of Modern Art: Planted 60 Years Ago,” published in Vanity Fair (May 1933).

A few of the many smartly selected materials are sampled below. But for the full impact of this remarkable volume, you must order your own copy. If you are a teacher, researcher or connoisseur, you will be spending a lot of time with this book (almost lost to COVID-19). I guarantee it. The English-language hardcover is available here, and the Spanish digital catalog can be found here.

Roman Llull, 1744, one of the oldest known tree archetypes.
Eric Newton, “Diagram of the History of Art” from 1255 to 1955, 1956.
Charles Jencks, “The Evolutionary Tree” from Modern Movements in Architecture, 1973.
Kasiimir Malevich, explanatory map and series of 22 analytical charts for the study of pictorial culture, c. 1925–1927.
Anonymous, “The Family Tree of American Painting,” 1934.
Miguel Covarrubias, “The Tree of Modern Art” from Vanity Fair, 1933.
Ad Reinhardt, “How to Look at a Cubist Painting” and “How to View High (Abstract) Art” from PM (newspaper), 1946.
Ad Reinhardt, “How to Look at Modern Art in America” from Art News, 1961.
Anonymous, “The Environment as Concept and Experience,” c. 1977.
Anonymous, from “Arts of the South Seas,” 1946.
Jean Soucet, “Chart of Modern Painting,” 1955.