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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).
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Master of the broad sweep of art history. Independent art historian who could afford to travel extensively and write what he liked. With John Fleming, he wrote “A World History of Art.” Obit in Telegraph. Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Art History Today
1) Eugène Delacroix, Mephistopheles in the Sky, 1828, print, illustration to Goethe’s Faust. 2) Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1751-1829), Goethe in the Compagna, 1786, Oil on canvas, 164 x 206 cm, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt. 3) François Gerard, Mme de Stael, Château de Coppet, Switzerland, 1817, oil on canvas, measurements unknown. 4) François Gérard, Corinne at Cape Miseno, 1819, Oil on canvas, 266 x 277 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon. 5) Eugene Delacroix, Faust and Mephistopheles, 1827-28, oil on canvas, 74.5 x 67 cm, Wallace Collection, London. 6) Eugène Delacroix, Faust Trying to Seduce Margarete (detail), 1828, Lithograph, Musée Eugène Delacroix,... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Art History Today
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Constable & the Wordsworthian Vision of Painting. In his poem The Tables Turned, William Wordsworth wrote the following lines: “One impulse from a vernal wood/May teach you more of man, /Of moral evil and of good, /Than all the sages can.” Like Wordsworth, John Constable saw more in the natural world than any book learning could provide. In his chapter on Constable in his The Romantic Rebellion, Kenneth Clark distinguished between two different aspects of the goddess Nature: “Byronic” which he identified with the fierce and vengeful side of the natural world; secondly, the tranquil mood of the countryside was... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Art History Today
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The Fallacies of Hope: Turner, Byron & Venice. In addition to being one of the greatest romantic painters of the era, Turner also tried his hand at poetry as in the pessimistic “Fallacies of Hope” which accompanied the showing of such apocalyptic canvases as Snow Storm: Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps (1812) and the deeply gloomy Slavers throwing Slaves Overboard which was printed in the catalogue with another extract from “The Fallacies of Hope.”[1] Though the poem was never finished, excerpts from it would attend the exhibition of many of Turner’s subsequent paintings. One of Turner’s favourite poets... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Art History Today
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Other Authors, Other Countries. Apart from the cult of anglomania amongst the dandies in nineteenth-century France there was a love of “Caledonia,” Scotland, home of the bogus lays of Ossian and the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott. And in addition to France, the Ossian legend was popular with artists and writers in Northern European countries like Germany and Scandinavia. The jagged, picturesque mountains described in Ossian influenced painters like the German Catel who conjured up a suitably inhospitable, calamitous night and sea scene for a painting based on the end of Chateaubriand’s novel, René. For writers like Mme de... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Art History Today
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Dante & Shakespeare in Romantic Art. In the age of Romanticism, authors of past time were not entirely expunged from French painting as can be seen in Ingres’s grandiose Apotheosis of Homer, though Shakespeare (bottom left) would find himself eliminated from Homer’s company because he was adopted by the romantics. Dante who stands just below Raphael remained, probably because Ingres could not bear to part with a poet who was embraced by both romantic and classical factions in art. Dante attracted artists as far apart in temperament as Blake and Delacroix, and in the middle journeymen like Ary Scheffer. One... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Art History Today
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A New Laocoön: Literature and Romantic Art in France. We cannot do better at introducing this section than to refer to a note by Theophile Gautier who spoke of a “brotherhood” of painting and poetry. “At that time, poetry and painting formed a brotherhood. Artists read poetry and poets frequented artists. Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, Byron and Scott were to be found as much in the studio as in the study.”[1] These authors would constitute the “Big Five” for literary-inclined painters, but artists also drew on themes taken from other writers like Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo, Lamartine, to name a few. Wakefield... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Art History Today
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Goethe, German Literature & Romantic Painting. One theme in literary Romanticism is the striving towards an infinite goal; the most salient example of this in the age of Romanticism is Goethe’s drama Faust. The leading character of the drama, the scholar Faust, represents the journey of the prodigal son who eventually grows homesick, pines for some kind of fulfilment, and finds it by making his way back home.[1] At the end of the second part of Faust, he will be spiritually re-born and thus negate qualities brought into the world by Mephistopheles such as sin, destruction, in short evil.[2] Theorists... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Art History Today
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From Ut Pictura Poesis to the Painted Poem in the Age of Romanticism. The practice of linking visual art and literature has its origins in Horace’s term which means “as is painting, so is poetry.” “Poetry resembles painting. Some works will captivate you when you stand very close to them and others if you are at a greater distance. This one prefers a darker vantage point that one wants to be seen in the light since it feels no terror before the penetrating judgment of the critic. This pleases only once, that will give pleasure even if we go back... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Art History Today
1) Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin, The Exhibition Room at Somerset House, 1800, engraving, Plate 2 of Microcosm of London, pub 1808. 2) Paul Gavarni, “What a Dreadful Salon” 1839, Lithograph, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. 3) Salvator Rosa, Self-Portrait as Philosophy, National Gallery, London, 1640, oil on canvas, 116.3 x 94 cm. 4) Joseph Anton Koch, The Artist as Hercules at the Crossroads, 1791, drawing, location unknown. 5) A. J. Carstens, The Creation of Light, Carbon pencil heightened with white on brownish paper. 485 x 425 mm, Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen. 6) A. J. Carstens, Night and Her Children, Sleep and Death,... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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PARIS (1846) Baudelaire: “Salon de 1846.” Charles Baudelaire introduced a new form of art criticism which defied imitation. His reviews or Salons were poetic, discursive, playful, occasionally scabrous, but always the product of a disciplined mind and hyperaesthetic personality. The first was due to a classical education at the College Louis-le Grand in Paris; the second the result of his father being a painter, and therefore growing up in an atmosphere of artistic appreciation. However, when his mother married again, it was to a Napoleonic martinet- General Aupick who persuaded Baudelaire’s family to restrict his finances.[1] Rebelling against this familial... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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LONDON (1836) Romanticism & Turner The 1830s were an important decade for the arts in England. In 1831 the young Queen Victoria (only eighteen years of age) opened the new National Gallery, and the public flooded in eager to see the masterpieces on its walls. Was the taste of the public satisfied by romantic art? The answer is a resounding no, especially the kinds of heroic battle scenes and history paintings that we are looking at on this course. The public were enthusiastic about the romantic sublimity of John Martin’s romantic panoramas, but those were closer to history painting with... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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PARIS (1824) Stendhal: “Salon of 1824.”[1] While the ailing king Louis XVIII was gravely ill at sixty nine years of age, the people of Paris including citizens, tourists, critics, connoisseurs, foregathered in the Place du Carousel eager for the doors of the Louvre to be thrown back so that they could rush to see the art in the Salon of 1824. Amongst these would have been Stendhal who had been sent by the Journal de Paris to report on the exhibition. This resulted in a series of articles run in the Journal over a spell of several months. One of... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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LONDON (1809) Henry Crabb Robinson: “William Blake; Artist, Poet, & Religious Mystic.”[1] In his biography of Blake, Peter Ackroyd says that Blake’s life could be considered “the parable of the artist who avoids the market place, where all others came to buy and sell.”[2] Yet despite his insularity Blake continued to believe from 1791 (a year when he lost an opportunity to gain a larger audience by publishing his topical poem on the French Revolution) that his prophetic books, pregnant with dense allegories and imbricated with complex systems gathered from the religions of the world, could reach the public. In... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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BERLIN (1808-10): Various German Critics: Friedrich’s Seascape, the Critics & the Public. No less than 422 works of art were shown at the official exhibition of the Prussian academy in Berlin. Friedrich sent two paintings: The Abbey in the Forest and the Monk by the Sea. Both of these were immersed in the mysticism and gothic dread of the middle-ages, though the Monk by the Sea seemed to be more in harmony with more recent literature, especially Young’s Night Thoughts (1742) which was tremendously influential on romanticist thought. One visitor, Heinrich von Kleist memorably described the act of looking at... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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DRESDEN (1808) Various German critics. Viewing Friedrich’s Cross in the Mountains Together with anti-classical artists like Friedrich and Runge, Dresden was home to a coterie of intellectuals and philosophers who espoused the cause of romanticism. Some of these had connections with Carstens and Fernow in Rome, and they were opposed to the classicism that Goethe had set out for the “new German school.” Many academics and scholars in Germany held the same view as the painters on the classical tradition. As explained by Holt, the Schlegels had “employed the term romantic to expand the connotation of “Nordic” to include medieval... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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ROME (1795): Karl L. Fernow: “Concerning some new works of art of Professor Carstens.”[1] In this review the German critic Fernow reproduces Carsten’s text which is as follows: “The following works of art are on display for public review in the house of the deceased Pompeo Batoni.” Then follows a list of works stating the subject and literary source of the painting. This is essential as Carsten’s subjects were immensely scholarly and were mainly drawn from classical culture; without this description the pictures would have been completely incomprehensible to the public. Taking one example “The Birth of Light” (above) which... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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The Rise of the Independent Exhibiting Artist. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint the start of a rebellious trend on the part of artists in exhibitions. Perhaps the first historical expression of this can be found in the life of the seventeenth-century Neapolitan painter Salvator Rosa who may have rejected patronage in order to pursue his own course; this veered between a longing to belong to a system of conventional patronage, and a wilful rejection of that aspect of the art world.[1] In this Rosa was foreshadowing the behaviour of modern artists. Such behaviour survived into the next... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
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Art for the Public in the Age of Romanticism. The origins of the growth of public exhibitions in the nineteenth-century are found in the seismic changes caused by the French Revolution, and more generally “the liberalization of Society” which caused profound alterations in the nature of society, politics and culture.[1] During revolutionary France, art objects previously belonging to the aristocracy were nationalised and displayed in public museums. Napoleon even created large museums in the provinces which might surprise the visitor today with their impressive holdings. Yet the art boom of the early nineteenth-century was far from provincial; it was international... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Art History Today
1) Goya, The Family of Carlos IV, 1800, oil on canvas, 280 x 336 cm, Prado, Madrid. 2) Goya, Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga, 1790s, oil on canvas, 127 x 101 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 3) Goya, The Duchess of Alba, 1797, oil on canvas, 210.2 x 149.3 cm, The Hispanic Society of America, New York. 4) Goya, Portrait of Antonia Zárate, c. 1805, Oil on canvas, 103,5 x 81,9 cm, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 5) Goya, Ferdinand Guillemardet, French Ambassador to Spain, 1798, oil on canvas, 186 x 124 cm, Museé du Louvre, Paris.... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Art History Today
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Romanticism & Modernism. As the romantic era shaded over into the realist period, the ultimate problem emerged of finding a way of reconciling a romantic attitude with living in modern society, particularly the urban metropolis. What could the devoted romantic do? He could escape into poetic or pictorial fantasy, dissolve in a stuporous haze of alcohol and drugs, or even flee the city altogether for the solace of the sublime mountains and the comfort of the cold moon. For the poet and art critic Baudelaire, installed in the Hotel Pimodan, the first two courses were obligatory, but he hated the... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Art History Today
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The Romantic Generation & Art for Art’s Sake. No less than eighteen definitions of Romanticism have been identified by one historian, but perhaps one of the most durable explanations for the movement concerns its adherence to the doctrine known as l’art pour l’art, art for art’s sake, an idea first introduced into nineteenth-century thought by the poet, art critic and novelist Theophile Gautier (1811-1872). This notion was first mentioned in his preface to his 1834 novel Mademoiselle de Maupin, a historical travesti romance based upon the French opera star Mlle Maupin. In deploying the phrase “everything that is useful is... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Art History Today
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The Portrait of Society in France. Such games that Girodet played with the social portrait were hazardous in his own time, but by 1830, six years after his death, they would have amounted to career suicide. The constitution of society had changed shaped by the after-effects of the French Revolution and additional factors like the commercialisation of society which helped the rise of the bourgeoisie who expected artists to paint them in a more realistic style, not in some mythological guise, satirically intended or not. As an amusing caricature by Honore Daumier reminds us, the reception of a piece of... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Art History Today
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Napoleonic Heroism, Byronic Heroism, & the Heroism of Modern Life. As Jacques Barzun notes, in the post-Napoleonic reconstruction of society, the Romanticists could not do without the hero, even though Napoleon had died in 1821. In the decades before 1830, the notion of heroism was embodied in Napoleon, but when he fell from grace and eventually died, that kind of hero would not be suitable for a society that had been ravaged by revolution, war and unceasing social conflict. Yet, Napoleon’s downfall didn’t lessen his symbolic power as a hero, but in Barzun’s words “added an aspect to the ideal... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Art History Today
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The Portrait, Romanticism, & Social Convention. With the ignominious defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington, who actually sat to Goya, the heroism within portraiture became more muted and re-defined. There were various reasons: science, particularly theories of physiognomy developed by Lavater dictating greater realism; and also changing social conventions affecting the portrayal of individuals in their social situation. Both of these are detected by Richard Brilliant in Girodet’s portrait of the black French diplomat Jean Baptiste Belley, which includes the stone bust of the historian Raynal, painted in 1797 which seems to betray Lavater’s ideas on... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Art History Today