How Art Works: Week 1 The ‘unruly discipline’

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This lecture will:

introduce ways to think about art and its history and help you to understand how art historians go about their practice
 
look at some of the issues and debates that make up the disciple of Art History
 
offer some reconsiderations of art history

consider the importance of the gallery and museum

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How Art Works: Week 1 The ‘unruly discipline’

  1. 1. How Art Works: Week 1 The ‘unruly discipline’ What do art historians do?
  2. 2. The way in which modern American and European art is studied is in large part due to the work and life of Alfred H. Barr (1902-1981)
  3. 3. This lecture will: • introduce ways to think about art and its history and help you to understand how art historians go about their practice • • look at some of the issues and debates that make up the disciple of Art History • • offer some reconsiderations of art history • consider the importance of the gallery and museum
  4. 4. What is art history? • Art historical thinking has shaped our experiences of art • Art history is a specialist academic discipline • Art history as distinct from art appreciation and art criticism
  5. 5. Art history: • Is a framework for thinking about the past • Is presented as a sequence or progression • has a preoccupation with marking out stylistic changes • is a way of looking at the culture and society of different epochs and seeing how we think about these periods and how attitudes have changed across time
  6. 6. Art Appreciation The important thing to note about this kind of art appreciation is that it requires no knowledge of art history. In this way, art appreciation requires no knowledge of the context of art.
  7. 7. Connoisseurship and Taste This implies something far more elitist than just enjoying looking at art. This kind of art appreciation is linked to the art market and involves being able to recognize the work of individual artists as this has a direct effect on the work’s monetary value.
  8. 8. Cubism (1907-14) Pablo Picasso Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, (1907, oil on canvas, MOMA, New York) What do art historians do? • The first job of the art historian is to slot a work of art into its proper place in time • The index of the artist and the period, style is crucial to the chronological basis of the discipline • The term style refers to the resemblance works of art have to one another
  9. 9. Expressionism (c.1890-1934) Edvard Munch The Scream, (1893, oil tempera and pastel on cardboard, National Gallery Oslo) What do Art Historians do? Sensory Properties - shape, line, texture, value, colour, space, and scale Formal Properties - how sensory properties are organized to achieve a sense of unity, balance, movement, and dominance Technical Properties - appearances of shapes, values, colours, etc., that are due to the use of particular materials and techniques. Expressive Properties - how a work's subject, for instance, a turbulent seascape or youthful portrait, combined with the other "properties" contribute to evoking: (a) feelings such as fear, loneliness or joy, or a sense of tension or tranquillity, and/or (b) ideas and ideals associated with, for example, the power of nature or the innocence of youth.
  10. 10. Fauvism (1900-20) Henri Matisse The Dance (1909 MOMA, New York, oil on canvas) What do Art Historians do? Style A work of art will reflect the time period and the geographic area in which it was produced, and/or the particular way its creator utilizes and organizes its properties
  11. 11. Art Nouveau 1890-1905 Gustave Klimt The Kiss (1907-08,oil and gold leaf on canvas, Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna) What do Art Historians do? Identifying the style of works of art and the meanings associated with their subjects, themes and symbols are tasks for the art historian.
  12. 12. Pointillism/Neo-Impressionism (1886-c1900) Georges Seurat La Grande Jatte, 1884-86, oil on canvas, The Art Institute, Chicago.) What do Art Historians do? How OLD is it? What is its STYLE? What is its SUBJECT? Who MADE it? Who PAID for it?
  13. 13. Connoisseurship, symbolism, aesthetic, theory, structuralism, as art history matured, the extremism of each approach was necessarily modified.
  14. 14. Vasari placed the emphasis on the genius and achievements of individual artists and this had a resounding effect on art history He was one of the first historians to make qualitative judgements about art in order to create a canon of great artists and works by them Vasari’s ‘Lives’ is really a history of artists rather that art history
  15. 15. Post-Impressionism (c.1880-1905) Van Gogh Starry Night (1889, MOMA New York, oil on canvas) The traditional canon of art history has been defined by authorship, authenticity, and a chronologically defined linear progression. The art canon
  16. 16. Art history timelines – beginning with Egyptian Pyramids and Greek marble sculptures, a large section on pre-history that includes African masks and Incan clay pots. Once pre-history gives way on the timeline to history, the line becomes straight and western, focusing on the individual geniuses who created great works of art and made up the major art movements Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, and even a few women artists like O’Keefe.
  17. 17. Impressionism 1870s-90s Claude Monet Poppies (c.1876, Musee D’Orsay Paris, oil on canvas) The linear timeline of art history is an invention, created by art historians to give shape and impose an organization on artists working in similar spaces and time periods. Expectation of art history as a chronological story about great Western male artists, there is bias in this interpretation that raises questions of the importance of the canon of art history and how we works and cultures that don't fit into this narrative The art canon
  18. 18. Realism 1830s-50s Millet The Angelus (1857-59 oil on canvas, Musee D’Orsay Paris) Eurocentric Progression This continuum of art history, which exists alongside official history in general, places Europe at the world’s centre, places the art of non-Western cultures in relation to the West and on the periphery of the official art timeline.
  19. 19. Art history – the art canon • The canon plays an important role in the institutionalization of art, as new works become judged against it. • It is a way of imposing hierarchical relationships • This usually favours the individual genius and the idea of the masterpiece
  20. 20. Vincent van Gogh Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) This myth of the artists as an eccentric genius living in isolation in a leaky garret and painting masterpieces, tormented and misunderstood one that is proliferated through biographies and biopics. These constructed narratives also set up a model of sexual difference where the artist is the creator and the woman is his model or muse in these accounts.
  21. 21. Pollock epitomized the artist as Romantic visionary hero.
  22. 22. The canon The canon is considered to be the prime object of the art historian, while art history helps to legitimise the canon.
  23. 23. Challenging the canon The answer to this question of why there have been no great women artists, lies in institutional boundaries, as opposed to individual limitations, that hindered women for centuries from having access to the same opportunities as men, keeping them from being deemed to be “great.”
  24. 24. The authors aim to examine how and why women’s significant contributions to the history of art have been consistently misrepresented, devalued, or ignored. The discipline and institutions of art history have been instrumental in the ideological operations that have resulted in this state of affairs
  25. 25. Intervention into art history by feminism questioned the conditions for the production of art and challenged the canon of art history. The canon is a structural condition for art history. Accounts of art like those offered by feminist or post-colonial thinkers are shaped and even made possible by the existence of the canon and its values.
  26. 26. Official Art History and Underrepresented Narratives Alongside women artists, art from other cultures or groups have been omitted from art history the Americas, Africa, India, China, Japan, Korea, and Australia and the Pacific Islands This implies that the canonical tradition is based on processes of active selection and repression.
  27. 27. Primitivism and Primitive Primitivism is a style of art that refers to the re- use and re- interpretations of non- Western forms by Western artists Primitive is a value judgement applied to non-Western art, which can be seen to be pejorative
  28. 28. Stages of Human ‘Progress’ Based on his ‘empirical’ evidence’, Morgan divided human cultures into three main stages of development: 1. Savagery (‘animal-like’ → child-like → close to nature → hunters gatherers → invention of tools to hunt animals → ‘primitive’ art). 2. Barbarism (further development of technology like pottery →domestication of animals →domestication of plants →metallurgy → more sophisticated art) 3. Civilisation (Absolute control over nature → trade and industry → monumental architecture and ‘proper’ high art → (the Nation State).
  29. 29. ‘Purity’ of ‘Native’ Vision Colonial Appropriation Western views on the primitive have come from both artists and art historians, for example, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Roger Fry
  30. 30. Paul Gauguin Nave, Nave Moe (Miraculous Source) (1894) Gauguin: Maker of Myth Reinforcing the idealism of his view of ‘the Other’
  31. 31. Authenticity, art and the ‘Romance of the Primitive’ Picasso – directly quotes non- Western art
  32. 32. Picasso's African-influenced Period - 1907 to 1909 Primitivism Picasso Head of a Woman (1907) Dan Mask
  33. 33. Art gallery/Museum Chronology is one of the principle tools in organising the display of works of art as well as being the principle method of writing art history. How collections were formed shows the ways in which art objects were historicised as a result of the activities of the patrons and collectors
  34. 34. Cabinets of Curiosity Typically referred to as the ‘precursors’ to modern museums, the Wunderkammer or Cabinets of Curiosities were collections of what were considered to be ‘exotic’, ‘strange’ and/or ‘wonderous’ objects, often kept in special rooms or literally, specially made cabinets, by aristocratic and upper-class ‘gentlemen’ during the Renaissance.
  35. 35. Kunst und Wunderkammer
  36. 36. The Academy The idea of the Academy is important to art history because it was one of the first places where art was presented to a select public. Museums and galleries have also played an influential role in the endorsement or challenge to the canon of art history
  37. 37. Construction of History The major museums of the West act as repositories of the canon. Gallery spaces contain exhibits that are linked by systems we have set up – artists, style, school – and not by connections that were relevant at the time of their productions
  38. 38. Canon and commodity Art history and the art market The canon also promotes the idea that certain cultural objects or styles of art have more value that others, both historical and monetary, than others. The art market is founded on the idea that a high market value is based on individuality and genius.
  39. 39. New Art History Questions the term art history and considers works beyond their role in the narrative of great artists or styles of art, to bring out its social, cultural and historical meaning. What Belting means by "the end of the history of art" is not the death of the discipline, but the end of a particular conception of artistic development as a meaningful, progressive historical sequence.

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