Harper’s Notes

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: gilded glamor, graphite drawings, country living, and more.

The editors

September 22, 2023

Guilded Guimard: In downtown Chicago, as in the center of Paris, a wrought-iron overhang in the Art Nouveau style looms over an entrance to the local train system. Now, you can trot from the Parisian Chicago Metra entrance to an exhibition about the key designer of Art Nouveau, Hector Guimard. At the Driehaus Museum until November 5, Hector Guimard: Art Nouveau to Modernism explores Guimard’s dedication to the idea of the “total work of art,” a concept through which he sought to unite the fine arts with urban design. For example, in each of his buildings, he designed everything from the facades to the interior decor. With the Art Nouveau forms in conversation with the stunning Gilded Age architecture of the historic Samuel M. Nickerson House, the museum’s home, the exhibition promises to be a treat for the architecture buffs among us.

Nature versus nurture: How have neuroscientific findings changed our understanding of morality, and how, if at all, should the law adjust as a result? These are the questions that a new book published by the University of Chicago Press sets out to answer. In Trialectic: The Confluence of Law, Neuroscience, and Morality, Peter A. Alces argues that advances in neuroscience will profoundly change normative legal theory. If, as science tells us, all human beings are the coincidence of mechanical forces, legal theories dependent on the distinction of mental and emotional realms from the physical one must be reevaluated. If they are not, we risk undermining law and even human thriving itself. Alces is the Rita Anne Rollins professor of law, emeritus, at The College of William & Mary and has written extensively on the moral conflict of law and neuroscience.

Nutt’s new drawings: Jim Nutt’s first solo show in a decade is now on view at the David Nolan Gallery in New York City. Nutt is an Evanston-based artist and graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who, for the past 40 years, has worked exclusively in portraiture. The show features 19 graphite portraits of women in a style vaguely reminiscent of Picasso, proving the motif remains endlessly variable. Stark fine lines show a care and coordination not typically associated with the medium, and slick up-dos recall a bygone era. Nutt’s drawings seem both representational and real at the same time, a balance that is hard to strike in abstracted portraiture and one that proves the artist’s mastery of his craft. At 84 years old, Nutt has been in the game for a long time now, and despite his relative lack of a public persona—he rarely gives interviews or speeches—the work is imbued with a personality both fresh and honest.

On the road again: The internet has brought curious readers no shortage of specialist publications. But how often does it give rise to a publication that’s entirely offline? In true dialectic fashion, a team of internet-savvy, digitally renowned writers and editors launched County Highway this summer. The new publication falls somewhere between a newspaper and a magazine, available only as a black-and-white broadsheet, catering to the interests of educated Americans who have retreated back to the countryside. Resolutely intellectual but also resolutely anti- or post-urban, the first edition of County Highwaybrought a review of Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead; a former UChicago professor’s review of W.J. Cashs The Mind of the South; a fascinating look at wheat failures in Oklahoma and the efforts of tribal leaders to increase their agricultural outputs; and more. Find a copy at a bookstore or subscribe to get the next issue by mail.