I just spent a week’s vacation in Italy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but I wish I could afford to take a fall trip to London as well. Just about every major museum in the English capital is holding an exhibition I would give my eye teeth to see. Instead I’m going to have to console myself back home in New York with the catalog for each show. Thankfully, these volumes are so handsomely and intelligently produced that paging through them is the next best thing to being there.
1. (V&A, $50), by curator Mark Evans, is the companion to an exhibition of the same name that runs until January 11, 2015, at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The book and the show focus on the great landscape painter’s debt to Old Masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt, and Claude Lorrain, and include his transporting oil sketches, painted in the open air, capturing the effects of weather and light on the English countryside.
2. Meanwhile, Constable’s contemporary and rival Joseph M.W. Turner is the subject of an expansive show at Tate Britain. brings together the radiant, radical seascapes the artist painted in his last decades, which many critics point to as forerunners of Modernism. The show runs until January 25, but American art lovers will have another chance to see it when it arrives at the Getty Center in Los Angeles next February—the Getty’s catalog is out now (Getty, $49.95). The painter is also the subject of a new film, Mr. Turner, by director Mike Leigh, opening in December.
3. The National Portrait Gallery is running two shows that size up two great English creators of the early 20th century. The critically acclaimed —which ends in just a few days, on October 26—looks at the life, work, and social circle of the Modern master. The catalog, written by Frances Spalding, author of a number of biographies of Bloomsbury members, deftly walks the reader through Woolf’s career, reproducing both formal and candid photographs, paintings by friends and family members, original book jackets, and more (NPG, $45).
4., 1860-1960 (Yale University Press, $50) accompanies a survey of the great craftsman and progressive thinker’s life and designs, on through January 11. Author Fiona McCarthy traces Morris’s influence on such later British designers as Robin and Lucienne Day and Terence Conran.
5. The National Gallery’s fall show, , open through January 18, is receiving rapturous reviews. Organized in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, it collects some of the artist’s most well-loved masterpieces, such as The Jewish Bride. The catalog, from Yale University Press, comes out in December, and features meticulously reproduced details that bring the reader close to every brushstroke and crackle.