Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Beginnings: Art, genius and starting out.


Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. Giorgio Vasari, pub 1550 and ‘68.
• Biographies of artists in chronological order, highlights development of their work and the creation of a canon of significant art works.

Art
• Vasari introduces key concepts
• Art as primarily an aesthetic concern
• The artist as a special kind of genius
• Art’s preoccupation with imitating the natural world.
• The progressive nature of art through the ages.

Michelangelo Buonarrotti 1475-1564.
• Vasari saw him as representing a pinnacle of artistic genius.
• Depressive and argumentative, he was seen as capable of great feats of creative energy.
• Nothing, it was said, would stop him from realising his god-like vision.
• In particular the mere everyday tasks of washing and eating were insignificant when art was at stake hence the tale of Michelangelo’s socks.

Ascanio Condivi
• Was commissioned by Michelangelo to write an official biography, to correct Vasari’s inaccuracies.
• Or rather to strengthen the Michelangelo-as-God myth by denying Michelangelo’s past as a trainee in the workshop of Ghirlandaio.
Vasari’s second edition 1568
• Included evidence to support his earlier claims: the contract of apprenticeship.
• Vasari however repeats his version of the story: Michelangelo’s genius was discovered by chance in early childhood and that once in the workshop he soon surpassed his master in skill and artistry.

Pliny
• This narrative theme stretches back to the earliest descriptions of artist lives found in the works of Pliny the Elder.
• A study has been made by Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz
• Legend, Myth and Magic in the Image of the artist: An Historical Experiment (Yale University Press 1979)

Ernst Kris, 1900-57
1922 completed his PhD and appointed assistant at Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum.
1927 marries and with his wife begins to study and practice psychoanalysis.
1929 publishes two volume work on gem carving: Meister und Meisterwerke der Steinschneidekunst in der Italienischen Renaissance.
1930-8 lectures at Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute while still working at museum. A close associate of Freud, he edited Imago magazine.
Kris, E., & Kurz, O. (1934). Die Legende vom Künstler: Ein historischer Versuch. Wien: Krystall Verlag. (Translated by Alastair Laing and revised by Lottie M. Newman. Additions to the original text were made by Otto Kurz). Legend, Myth, and Magic in the Image of the Artist, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979).
1938 flees Vienna, to London.
Works for BBC analysing Nazi broadcasts. Moves to Canada and USA with similar role.
Post-war lives and lectures in New York.

Otto Kurz 1908-75
From 1927 studied art history in Vienna. While still a student, he was attacked by Nazis who took advantage of the police immunity in the university, bludgeoning Kurz, a Jew, in the middle of the university library. Worked for a time in Hamburg at the private Warburg Library. When the Warburg moved to London, Kurz was invited to emigrate to England as well.
He was Librarian at the Warburg Institute, 1944-1965
Later Professor of the History of Classical Tradition with special reference to the Near East, University of London, 1965-1975.

Shepherd Boy artists
• Artist as boy discovered in field by passer-bye who recognises wonderful talent in his sketches.
• Eg Cimabue spots Giotto drawing animals in sand while tending his father’s flock.
Also Eg Sienese nobleman discovers Beccafumi drawing in sand while tending flock….
Also Sansovino
And Andrea del Castagno…


Tricking the eye
• Kris and Kurz identified another major set of stories or narrative formula.
• In these we are left in no doubt of the artist’s tremendous powers. Typically the artist executes a work or alters a work in such a way as to trick the eye: a painted spider being mistaken for a real one for instance.

Anecdotes
• The shepherd story starts with Giotto, the realism story with the competition between Zeuxis and Parrhasios told by Pliny.
• Are Anecdotes just jokes? K and K see it as a link to the “realms of myth and saga from which it carries a wealth of imaginative material into recorded history”.
• So artists, even the moderns, are tied to the god and hero filled world before the dawn of history.

Academies
• Florence: Cosimo I de' Medici, 1563, Accademia e Compagnia delle Arti del Disegno
• Compagnia: any artist in Tuscany could join
• Accademia: the elite artists with a courtly role.
• Students learnt "arti del disegno" with lectures on anatomy and geometry as well as practical classes.

Rome and Bologna
• The Accademia di San Luca, Rome 1570s
• 1582 Annibale Carracci, Academy of Desiderosi, Bologna.

France
• Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture founded in France in 1648,
• Modelled on Academy of St Luke, the French adopted term “arti del disegno."
• Members were "gentlemen practicing a liberal art" ie not craftsmen.
• Re-organised under Louis XIV 1661. Becomes an instrument of courtly control of French culture and cultural production.

Roman Holiday, the Grand Tour.
• Paris and then overland through Switzerland to Turin, Milan, Florence and then to Rome.
• Or via Lyons to Nice by sea then by boat to Genoa and to Livorno (which the British still call Leghorn) and south to Naples (nearby Vesuvius, Herculaneum [from 1738], Pompeii [from 1748] and Paestum)
• Addison’s guidebook (Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, 1705):
• “There is certainly no place in the world where a man may travel with greater pleasure and advantage then in Italy.”
• “it abounds with cabinets of curiosities and vast collections of all kinds of classical antiquities.”

Culture Dust
• Those who travelled were generally around twenty having completed their education at home.
• Tourists would stay in Rome for a period somewhere between a 6 weeks and a year. Greatness and refinement would literally rub off on you if you spent time in this most ideal of locations.
• “The man [there were women on the Tour as well] who occupies himself solely in the study of Antiquities and the fine arts, or he who has no other ties in life, should live at Rome. The very stone that he treads on will speak to him; the dust blown by the wind around him will be decomposed particles of some great human being.”
• De Chatueabriand 1803

Apollo Belvidere
• Central to the experience of Rome was a visit to the huge Vatican museum. This was of vital importance in framing the European response to classicism for the galleries contained the finest examples of Roman and Greek antiquities. It came to be understood throughout Western Europe that it was Greek art which represented the purer and better rendition of truth.
• Winkellmann, the German writer and art historian described Greece as the source of good taste in the arts. In 1764 he published his Geschichte der Kunst des Altherums (History of Ancient Art). He highlighted the Apollo Belvidere.
• It is from this time that the use of casts and the study of the nude by artists became a formalised part of the training of the artist.

Pre- Royal Academy
• Hogarth: St. Martin’s Lane Academy began 1735, an artist’s club based in the Slaughters Coffee House and offering Life Classes in nearby studio.
• Glasgow: Robert Foulis, a publisher and collector, established a school of art and design at the University in 1753. It became known as the Foulis Academy.
• Edinburgh: 1760, Trustees Drawing Academy of Edinburgh established by the Board of Trustees for Fisheries, Manufactures and Improvements in Scotland under powers in an Act of Parliament 1727.


Royal Academy
• Founded 1768. The Royal Academy was so-called because it was enacted by a document signed by Geo III . It therefore took on the nature of a state institution, however it was actually based upon the private association of artists which had been organised some 8 years previously to form what was called the Society of Arts.
• In 1761 they had hired rooms and held an exhibition, being granted a Royal Charter in 1765. However it was felt that the Society was of limited use because it was not exclusive, anyone could join.
• The 1768 charter from GEO III was based on the feeling that a limited number of artists, the elite in the realm, should control the institution guarding against outside intervention and meddling.

Angelica Kauffmann 1741-1807
An associate of Gavin Hamilton and Winckellmann, Kauffmann was a neo-classical painter, painting large scale and ambitious history paintings at a time when such works were considered the most important and difficult which a painter could execute. Reynolds who encouraged aristocratic patronage of her work and promoted her as an academician championed Kauffmann.

Mary Moser 1744-1819
A flower painter, she too was an RA in 1771. Her father, George, was Keeper of the Royal Academy. Her intricate paintings had been admired and bought by royalty and she had been long recognised as a prodigy winning prizes as young as 14.

• The women were unable to attend life classes or the regular meetings of the Academy. But they did take part in judging medals and scholarships.
• The next woman Associate member of the RA was not elected until 1922 and no full woman member was elected until 1936.



Reading
Johnson G.A. (2005) Renaissance Art A Very Short Introduction, Oxford.
Vasari G Lives of the Artists, Penguin Classics.
Kris E. and Kurz O., Legend, Myth and Magic in the Image of the artist: An Historical Experiment (Yale University Press 1979)
Craske M (1997) Art in Europe 1700-1830, Oxford History of Art.
Vaughan W. (1978) Romantic Art, Thames and Hudson
Chadwick, W (2007 4th ed) Women Art and Society, Thames and Hudson, World of Art.

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