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New book: A Theory of the Tache in Nineteenth-Century Painting

7 July 2014

A Theory of the Tache in Nineteenth-Century Painting

Øystein Sjåstad, University of Oslo, Norway

Series : Studies in Art Historiography

Without question, the tache (blot, patch, stain) is a central and recurring motif in nineteenth-century modernist painting. Manet’s and the Impressionists’ rejection of academic finish produced a surface where the strokes of paint were presented directly, as patches or blots, then indirectly as legible signs. Cézanne, Seurat, and Signac painted exclusively with patches or dots. Through a series of close readings, this book looks at the tache as one of the most important features in nineteenth-century modernism. The tache is a potential meeting point between text and image and a pure trace of the artist’s body. Even though each manifestation of tacheism generates its own specific cultural effects, this book represents the first time a scholar has looked at tacheism as a hidden continuum within modern art.

With a methodological framework drawn from the semiotics of text and image, the author introduces a much-needed fine-tuning to the classic terms index, symbol, and icon. The concept of the tache as a ‘crossing’ of sign-types enables finer distinctions and observations than have been available thus far within the Peircean tradition. The ‘sign-crossing’ theory opens onto the whole terrain of interaction between visual art, art criticism, literature, philosophy, and psychology.

Contents: Introduction: to overlook or to over-look; The tache as a sign between perception and imagination; A theory of sign crossings; The tache before Manet; Manet’s tache: an art of inconsistency; Cézanne’s field of taches: between touch and vision; Seurat’s point and Signac’s ‘not-dot’; Matisse’s farewell to the tache; Afterword: eye and hand. Bibliography; Index.

About the Author: Øystein Sjåstad is a lecturer in art history at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo, Norway.

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