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Art History Today
Midlands, United Kingdom
Professional Art Historian, Phd in Poussin,
Interests: music, art history, films, (classical through to rock), literature (mainly modern crime mystery).
Recent Activity
Slides used in Lecture. 1) Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Gothic Cathedral with Imperial Palace, 1815, Oil on canvas, 94 x 140 cm, Nationalgalerie, Berlin. 2) John Constable, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831, oil on canvas, Private Collection, prev on loan to National Gallery, London. 3) J .M. W. Turner, Tintern Abbey: The Transept, c. 1794, watercolour, Tate, London. 4) Eugene Delacroix, The Abduction of Rebecca, (from Ivanhoe), 1846, Oil on canvas, 100 x 82 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 5) K. F. Schinkel, Study for a Monument to Queen Louise, 1810, Watercolour, 720 x 520 mm, Nationalgalerie, Berlin.... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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Medievalism & Romanticism in Germany (2): The Nazarenes Finally, a word should be said about the band of painters united under the banner of St Luke- the Nazarenes. Unlike Schinkel, they had no interest in following the soaring lines of Gothic cathedrals skywards, but instead limited their horizons to the intimacy of the hearth and workshop. The Nazarene movement was born in 1809 when six students at the Vienna Academy formed an association called the Brotherhood of St Luke (Lukasbrüder), named after the patron saint of painting. They actually didn’t use the label “Nazarenes” but acquired it from their detractors... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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One of the reasons for Germany’s interest in the middle-ages is thought to have been dictated by a political solution to modern conditions. Unlike medieval times Germany consisted of several autonomous, self-governing bodies; thus, intellectuals turned back to a time when their country was united under the aegis of the Holy Roman Empire (800-1648). Then, the pre-Reformation Catholic Church exercised power, and the guild system provided a model for social organization and commercial activity.[1] Writings like the previously mentioned Goethe’s essay “On German Architecture” reflects this need for defining the German nation through a philosophy of political coherence, which was... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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Medievalism & Romanticism in France (2): Painting & the Gothic Style. The deeds and adventures of heroes from the middle-ages permeate the literature of the early nineteenth-century, most conspicuously in the novels of Scott. In France, the Gothic sensibility is present in writers like Chateaubriand with his celebration of the Catholic religion, Genius of Christianity, not to mention his novels and memoirs where one deduces he prefers women to wear veils, lurk in cemeteries and possess the kind of sorrowful blanched face seen in many Gothic situations. Chateaubriand’s aesthetic view of the French Revolution as a transitional movement in style... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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Medievalism & Romanticism in France (1): “Gloomy Magic” at the Museé des Monuments Français in Paris. The revival of medieval art appreciation in France was largely a response to the destruction of sculpture and monuments during the French Revolution which were considered “royalist” or which symbolised the old order which was being swept away. One heroic scholarly figure intervened as the saviour as Gothic and medieval art, Alexandre Lenoir, and his achievement was realized in the Museé des Monuments Français (Museum of French Monuments) which housed examples of art from the middle- ages to the 17th century. As one commentator... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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Blake & the Gothic (2): Illuminations. The mediocre watercolours and engravings of English medieval subjects hardly attest to Blake’s genius; but with his decision to create illustrated books of his poetry, his art reached a new level of accomplishment which ensured his posthumous fame. Of significance here is the word “illuminated” which might refer to enlightenment in a mystical sense, and Blake drew and painted many esoteric subjects like The Sea of Time and Space (above); but might equally, as Clark reasonably states, allude to the world of the middle-ages with its monks and illustrators of the illuminated manuscripts in... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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Blake & the Gothic (1): The “Double Re-appraisal.” In later life William Blake re-worked a plate of a figure taken from Michelangelo’s Crucifixion of St Peter inscribing it with the following words: “This is one of the Gothic Artists who built the Cathedrals in what we call the Dark Ages wandering around in sheepskins and goatskins of whom the world was not worthy; such were the Christians in all ages.” This was an example of what Francis Haskell called the “double-reappraisal” in which two seemingly contradictory types of art are reassessed and found not incompatible with the artists’s outlook.[1] An... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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Gothic into Romanticism. As Clark points out, when one studies the historical shift in architecture and the arts known as the “Gothic Revival,” one ends up considering the Romantic movement itself because in this period the middle-ages “took the place of classical times as an ideal in art.”[1] And though “Romantic Gothic” was mainly found in literature in the 18th century, in the following century it had spread across the cultural sphere to all expressions of romantic creativity. For example the phenomenon known as the picturesque depended heavily on the presence of ruined Gothic buildings, abbeys and castles which would... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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Gothic: What’s In A Word? As we learnt last week, defining romanticism has much to do with the origin of the word itself. The same is true of “Gothic”, though in this case the word has always been tinged with a certain disdain even by those who celebrated its achievement and recognised its aesthetic and archaeological values. In his 1812 meditation on Strasbourg Cathedral, Goethe firmly rejected the word “Gothic” and proposed instead to call the building an example of German art; thus nationality became fused with a distinctive style.[1] Probably the linking of the word Gothic with architecture was... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Art History Today
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1) Theodore, Gericault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19, oil on canvas, 491 x 716 cm, Museé du Louvre, Paris. 2) William Blake, Frontispiece to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-93. 3) Anon, prev att to Constance Meyer, Phrosine et Mélidore, from Mehul’s opera (1794), early 19th century, oil on canvas, 32.5 x 24 cm, Musée Magnin, Dijon. 4) Pierre Joseph Prudhon, Les Amours de Phrosine et Mélidore, 1797, etching and engraving. 5) Att. to Antoine- Jean Gros, Portrait of Étienne Méhul, 1799, oil on canvas, Museé Carnavalet, Paris. 6) Silvestro Valeri, Portrait of Henri Marie Beyle (Stendhal) as... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2016 at Art History Today
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Stael’s Intellectual Crusade: The Struggle of Romantic Art in Germany and N. Europe. In her De la Littérature of 1800 Germaine de Stael distinguishes between the literature of the north and that of the south; the poetry of the south was more agreeable, life-affirming, yet intellectually shallow; the poetry of the north was more melancholy, introspective and conducive to a philosophical outlook. This dichotomy can be comfortably extended to painting, though at the same time we should note the trends in visual art in Northern Europe and the Mediterrean countries overlap to some degree. Thus some German artists favour the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2016 at Art History Today
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Rational and Irrational: Stylistic Evolution in the Early Nineteenth-Century Even without the psychoanalytic baggage, such labels as “romantic classic” or “classical romantic" confuse the student of art, thus Walter Friedlaender proposed to analyse the roots of the Davidian and romantic schools in the eighteenth-century. To Friedlaender, there were rational and irrational currents in the art of this century which contributed to the formation of distinct styles and their modifications in the following one.[1] If we start with David’s canonical the Oath of the Horatii (above) and end with Delacroix’s Barque of Dante we encounter a widening stylistic abyss. Also, in... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2016 at Art History Today
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Duel and Duality: Romantic verses Classic. “Je suis un pur classique” (I am a pure classic.” Delacroix. It has been said that the antagonism of the classical and romantic styles in painting were embodied in the professional rivalry of J.A. D. Ingres and Eugène Delacroix, who are usually considered to represent the opposite poles of the debate in France, or combat as their rivalry could become acrimonious, at least on Ingres’s side. Though Delacroix memorably characterised Ingres’s painting as “the complete expression of an incomplete intelligence” he occasionally conceded the other painter’s skill; Ingres, on the other hand, continued his... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2016 at Art History Today
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Sublime Conceptions: Historical Origins of Romanticism outside France. In order to consider the problem of when, historically, romanticism started, it is necessary to leave France and travel to the Italy and England of the eighteenth-centuries. Some scholars have hazarded 1764 as the beginning of the movement because Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto (which features a disturbing gothic dream) was published in that year. But as Kenneth Clark points out, the date is too late because the seeds of romanticism are discernible earlier in Edmund Burke’s Inquiry into the Origins of the Sublime (1757) which despite its rather arid... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2016 at Art History Today
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Graveside Recriminations: Burying Girodet in 1824 An artist bestriding both neo-classicism and romanticism was Anne Louis Girodet, who had been trained in the studio of Jacques Louis David, the artist synonymous with the storm signal that was the French Revolution. Sadly, Girodet’s career unravelled ignominiously with a series of spectacular failures, as well as having to endure the growing censure of the exiled David in Brussels; and eventually Girodet would die of tumour of the bladder in 1824. Girodet was buried in Paris with full artistic honours, the cortege made up of members of his own school, as well as... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2016 at Art History Today
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Contraries and Progression: The Origins of Romanticism in Painting. There are many entry points into a history of European romanticism. In poetry, the idea of romanticism is thought to have originated with the poet Friedrich Wilhelm Schlegel who used the word Romanticism to indicate forms of poetry created outside the constraints of rules or laws. In the sphere of music the opera composer Mehul is assumed to have been the first to earn the title romantic, and the French painter most associated with the movement, Delacroix mentions working on a subject inspired by Mehul in the 1820s,- Mélidore et Phrosine,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2016 at Art History Today
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Anita Brookner's little book on Romanticism which I have finished. Unlike Clark this is more single-minded and sharp-pointed. Clark's lectures gave the impression of a diffusion of cloudy themes ocassionally illuminated by shafts of good ideas. Brooker, on the other hand, gives the reader the lie of the land from the outset. Her span runs for 80 years; it covers both painters, art critics and novelists; it starts with Gros and ends with Huysmans. Though Clark had things to say about the "proto-romanticism" of the 18th century, he largely confined it to philosophical concepts like the sublime in artists like... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2016 at Art History Today
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"Millet was one of those artists on whom a few formal ideas make so deep an impression that they feel compelled to spend the whole of their lives in trying to lever them out. Perhaps this is the chief distinguishing mark of the classical artist; certainly it is what distinguishes his use of subject matter from that of the illustrator. The illustrator is essentially a reporter, his subjects come to him from outside, lit by a flash. A subject comes to the classic artist from inside, and when he discovers confirmation of it in the outside world he feels that... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2016 at Art History Today
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Fascinating to learn of the Independent’s role in major art history/restoration disputes of the last two decades. Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2016 at Art History Today
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Reading Walter Friedlaender's "David to Delacroix" for my Romanticism course I came across what he calls the "Grandfather Law." "The governing principle involved here- as is so often the case with the evolution of art forms- is, so to speak, the "grandfather law." A generation consciously and bitterly negates the efforts of its elders and returns to the tendencies of a preceding period." Quite by chance I had stumbled across an article on the New York artist Jacob Collins to whom the "grandfather law" seems to be especially relevant. A scion of a family of art scholars and artists, his... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2016 at Art History Today
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The word in the art sphere is that this is a clever forgery. This is just one of a number of pictures under scrutiny. If it is a fake, it’s a good one. Time will tell. Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2016 at Art History Today
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“If I could be born again and choose what I should be in my next existence, I should desire to be a man of science- not accidentally but by nature, inevitably a man of science…The only thing that might make me hesitate would be an offer by fate of artistic genius..There is no such thing as progress in art. Every artist begins at the beginning. The man of science, on the other hand, begins where his predecessors left off…The man of science provides the experience that changes the ideas of the race.” Aldous Huxley, “A Night at Pietramala” in Along... Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2016 at Art History Today
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Aldous Huxley’s Travels through Tuscany. “Gall and Mesmer have given place to Freud. Fillippo Lippi once had a bump of art, He is now an incestuous homosexualist with a bent towards anal-eroticism. Can we doubt any longer that human intelligence progresses and grows greater? Fifty years hence what will be the current explanation of Fillippo Lippi?” Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves. One of Lawrence’s greatest friends was the novelist and polymath Aldous Huxley who spent time in Italy with the Lawrence’s and was there, along with his wife Maria, at the bedside of D.H. when he died in 1930 at... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2016 at Art History Today
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Lady Chatterley’s Villa: D H. Lawrence in Tuscany. “It’s lovely, when one can see far, far, and on the plain the city so alone, so feminine, and on the hills the villas, white or pink, and again and again the cypresses, like black shadow-flames crowding together. This is Tuscany, and nowhere are the cypresses so beautiful and proud, like black flames from primeval times, before the Romans had come, when the Etruscans were still here, slender and fine and still and with naked elegance, black haired with narrow feet.” Letter, September, 1921. The famous author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2016 at Art History Today
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Clark and the Berenson Circle in Tuscany. “Clark’s youthful self-assurance and aloofness would not have been a discouragement for Berenson: aloofness was one of his own notable characteristics. Equally, the rich, the well-bred and the good-looking held a perpetual fascination for him, as did clever, articulate, Oxford-educated Anglo-Saxons.” Robert Cumming, editor of My Dear BB.[1] Last year saw the publication of the correspondence (lasting 34 years) between Berenson and Sir Kenneth Clark, which some have seen as “a substitute for a friendship that didn’t happen.”[2] As Cumming observes, the jeunesse d’oree of educated Anglican upper middle class Englishmen, of which... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2016 at Art History Today