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23: Dec20


General articles

Susanna Avery-Quash with Christine Riding (National Gallery, London), ‘Two hundred years of women benefactors at the National Gallery: an exercise in mapping uncharted territory’ 23/AQR1

Abstract: This article sheds fresh light on women who have been important benefactors to the National Gallery from its foundation in 1824 to the present (2020), largely in terms of donating paintings but also through financial aid to support the acquisition of paintings and frames, building work, staff posts, publications, exhibitions, and various public events. Through a mixture of case-studies and basic data analysis, the following set of core questions is addressed: (1) Who were the Gallery’s women donors? (2) Which paintings did they give and in what other ways have they been generous to the Gallery? (3) What patterns within their donating can be discerned? (4) What were their motivations for their gift giving? (5) Why have their donations been easy to lose sight of? (6) What is the Gallery doing now, ahead of its 200th anniversary in 2024, to draw attention to the significant contributions of its women donors past and present? It is hoped that the information compiled here will act as a useful reference point for others in the field when probing similar types of provenance records and will encourage readers to share information to help us fill persisting gaps in our data. 

Key words: women donors, gifts and bequests, acceptance in lieu, commemoration, Art Fund, National Gallery, Tate Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, British Museum, ‘old master’ paintings, works on paper

Rex Butler (Monash University, Melbourne), ‘Rosalind Krauss: between modernism and post-medium’ 23/RB1

Abstract: ‘Rosalind Krauss: Between Modernism and Post-Medium’ is a response to an essay, ‘Automat, Automatic, Automatism: Rosalind Krauss and Stanley Cavell on Photography and the Photographically Dependent Arts’, by Irish aesthetic philosopher Diarmuid Costello criticising the prominent American art critic and historian Rosalind Krauss for her notion of “post-medium” art. Costello objects to the fact that in Krauss’ theorisation a particular post-medium can in principle be practised by only one artist and thus does not allow the comparative judgement and sense of artistic or historical development that the notion of medium implies. This essay by contrast contends both that Krauss’ notion of post-medium does allow comparison and that in the very notion of medium on which Costello relies there is a certain moment of non-comparison, of a particular author or artist making something absolutely novel and unprecedented. Indeed, it suggests that these two qualities of the medium cannot be separated and necessarily imply each other. The author does this with reference to the work of the American “ordinary language” philosopher Stanley Cavell, on whom Krauss draws for her theorisation of the post-medium. Also included is an interview with Krauss herself that raises a number of these matters.

Keywords: Post-medium, modernism, Rosalind Krauss, Diarmuid Costello, Stanley Cavell

Thomas Hughes (Courtauld Institute), ‘Subjectivity, historical imagination and the language of art history’ 23/TH1

Abstract: Analysing the writings of Michael Baxandall, Michael Ann Holly, Adrian Stokes and T. J. Clark, and responding to recent art historiographical interest in the foregrounding of subjectivity, this essay deploys Baxandall’s analysis of the verbal description of visual interest to attend to subjectivity’s functioning in relationtothe object and its history. Revealing significant continuities between Baxandall and Clark, the essay traces a genealogy of writers who, in different ways, deploy subjectivity in the service of ethical commitments to painting. The essay proposes rethinking subjectivity in art-historical writing through an expanded notion of imagination.

Keywords: subjectivity, language, art history, Michael Baxandall, T. J. Clark, early modern painting, imagination.

Janno Martens (KU Leuven), ‘Lost and found in translation: the post-war adaptation strategies of Sigfried Giedion and Alexander Dorner’ 23/JM1

Abstract: Sigfried Giedion’s unparalleled influence as ‘ghost writer’ of the Modern Movement frustrated several colleagues who strove to achieve similar international recognition. Chief among them was Alexander Dorner, who privately bemoaned Giedion’s unaccredited use of his ideas. The latter’s success is often attributed to his role as co-founder and secretary of CIAM, which gave him a professional edge over theoreticians such as Dorner who struggled to popularise their own take on space, history and modern art. However, the approach to linguistic and cultural adaptation taken by these German-speaking intellectuals is often overlooked as a similarly pivotal aspect of the postwar historiographical trajectory of modern art and architecture. Whereas Giedion allowed for his English translations to appeal to a different audience from the outset, Dorner instead opted to integrate additional ‘American’ elements into his already complicated theories. Furthermore, Giedion had a markedly different approach to the translation and copy-editing of his work compared to Dorner, who refused to fully adapt to the conventions of the Anglo-American language and culture.

Keywords: emigration, postwar architectural history, modern architecture, space, transplanted intellectuals, adaptation, translation, Alexander Dorner, Sigfried Giedion, Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, John Dewey

Stefan Muthesius (University of East Anglia), ‘How to write plausibly about Architecture and architectural History, according to A. Rosengarten (1809-1893)’ 23/SM1  

Abstract: As an architect A. Rosengarten worked first in his home-town, Kassel, and then in Hamburg. The emphasis here is on Rosengarten’s diverse writings, especially his handbook of architectural history of 1857, entitled Die architektonischen Stylarten (English version 1876), as well as long articles and short books, most of them dealing with contemporary architecture. Rosengarten’s innovative manner of writing offered lively critiques of buildings, old as well as new; it was duly dubbed ‘popular’. Secondly, Rosengarten was most insistent on the term ‘style’. This, too, linked up with contemporary architectural problems, namely with the search for a style for the nineteenth century. For new synagogues in particular Rosengarten opted for an un-ideological, politically – geographically unspecific Rundbogenstil which he had used for his synagogue in Kassel. Should Jewish buildings stand out or integrate? For the writer, analysing and categorising his audiences was a constant concern. At the base of it all, one senses, was Rosengarten’s quest for his own integration into Germany’s Modern bourgeois society.  

Keywords: nineteenth century, modes of architectural writing, historical and contemporary, uses of the term ‘style’, Jewish style for synagogues

Gavin Parkinson (Courtauld Institute), ‘On “sensibility”: art, art criticism and Surrealism in New York in the 1960s’ 23/GP1

Abstract: This article details and analyses the uses of the term ‘sensibility’ in New York art circles in the 1960s with the aim of showing the inevitable inconsistency that surrounded that term given the rebirth of Surrealism in that decade. It does so initially in relation to how ‘sensibility’ was used to define a ‘literalist’ mode emerging generally in culture in the United States and France then goes on to examine its applications in art criticism of the time. Susan Sontag’s name is inexorably associated with the term due largely to her widely read essay ‘One Culture and the New Sensibility’ (1965), but Sontag’s writings of the sixties generally serve as the hinge of the article because they demonstrate the tension that is argued for here between a new literalism identified with Pop and Minimalist art and the resurgence of interest in Surrealism as a sensibility and historical paradigm. Ultimately, I show that the inconvenient presence of contemporary Surrealism in exhibitions, protests and political statements in Europe and the US had to be sublimated through discussion of its sensibility in contemporary art and the insistence on its glorious, distant past as an ‘art movement.’

Key words: sensibility, minimalism, Surrealism, formalism, Sontag, Pop

Caroline Anjali Ritchie (Tate Britain and the University of York), ‘Dangerous disorder: ‘confusione’ in sixteenth-century Italian art treatises’ 23/CAR1

Abstract: This article examines the troubled history of the word confusione as it was employed by a number of well-known art-critical and -theoretical writers of the Italian Renaissance. Beginning with De pictura, the foundational treatise of Leon Battista Alberti, this study traces the applications of the word into the late cinquecento, drawing out its various aesthetic, intellectual, psychological, and theological-devotional associations. In offering this focused study, the article proposes a wider methodological turn towards the vocabulary denoting ‘bad’ pictorial qualities as used both in the Renaissance and in art-theoretical writing at large. Such analyses, this article seeks to elucidate, can yield a wealth of information about language, taste, and ideology as disclosed by the vocabulary of art theory and criticism.

Key words: art theory, composition, cinquecento, Mannerism, terminology, vocabulary, aesthetics

Modern Lives – Modern Legends: artist anecdotes since the eighteenth century: Guest edited by Hans C. Hönes (University of Aberdeen) and Anna Frasca-Rath (Friedrich-Alexander-University in Erlangen)

Hans C. Hönes (University of Aberdeen) and Anna Frasca-Rath (Friedrich-Alexander-University in Erlangen), ‘Introduction’ 23/HFR1

Abstract: This essay serves as an introduction to the special section “Modern Lives – Modern Legends”. It discusses the development of anecdotes as a literary genre in the eighteenth century, and evaluates recent historiography on artist anecdotes. Focusing on the idiosyncrasies of the genre since the eighteenth century, this essay argues that artist anecdotes should be understood less as a ‘timeless’ carrier of art theoretical topoi, but as a literary genre that needs to be analysed in its situatedness in the publishing market and social historical background of its times.

Key words: artist anecdotes, art theory; Julius von Schlosser, Giorgio Vasari, history of reading

Hans Christian Hönes (University of Aberdeen), ‘A match not made in heaven: artist anecdotes and the “Dialogues of the Dead”’ 23/HCH1

Abstract: Artist anecdotes are arguably among some of the more informal and entertaining bodies of artistic literature. As such, they frequently become fertile ground for experiments with different literary forms and genres of art writing. This article focuses on one historical case, a short pamphlet by the Nuremberg engraver Georg Wolfgang Knorr, with the title ‘Historic Artist-Entertainment’ (1738). Knorr’s booklet draws on an oft-repeated anecdote – told, among others, by Vasari and Sandrart -, namely the legendary meeting between Albrecht Dürer and Raffael. Knorr reconfigured this anecdote and opted for a novel way of imagining the discussions between the artists: he wrote a ‘dialogue of the dead’, staging this artistic encounter as a posthumous one, with the artists meeting each other in heaven. Knorr’s short work is intriguing for mainly one reason: it is an attempt to ‘vulgarise’ art historical knowledge by moulding it in a literary shape that was incredibly popular in mid-eighteenth-century Germany. Knorr’s text thus can serve as a case study for how authors tried to disseminate art historical knowledge amongst the new, significantly enlarged reading public of Enlightenment Europe, and which literary strategies they employed for doing so. Yet Knorr’s attempt to present art historical knowledge in a new genre – namely the dialogues of the dead – was by and large unsuccessful. Very few other dialogues of the dead with artists as protagonists were written. Moreover, Knorr himself quickly abandoned his original project of publishing a whole volume of such dialogues. The article therefore aims to discuss the reasons behind this failure, and to analyse what this might tell us about the popular appeal of artistic literature, and artist anecdotes in particular.

Key words: anecdotes, Enlightenment, Raphael, Albrecht Dürer, Nazarenes, vulgarization, art literature, dialogues of the dead

Mark Ledbury (Power Institute at the University of Sydney), ‘Trash talk and buried treasure: Northcote and Hazlitt‘ 23/ML1

Abstract: James Northcote was as reputed for his liberality of anecdote as for his parsimony in hospitality. His conversations and recollections, bristling with detail, of his time in Reynolds’ orbit and after, have entertained and misled in equal measure, but in his encounters late in his life with William Hazlitt, now remembered through their restaging in Hazlitt’s Conversations of James Northcote RA in 1830, he found both a match and an irritant, a sensitive ear and an aggressive sparring partner. This paper explores the encounters between these two very different men, the anecdotes and lore they produced and the rifts that eventually came to divide the aging artist and the brilliant but troubled critic. My contention will be that while Northcote owed Hazlitt much, and enjoyed his company greatly, he found himself the victim of his own penchant for anecdote and fable, while Hazlitt brilliantly understood the political and cultural undercurrents that swirled beneath Northcote’s conversations. 

Key words: James Northcote, William Hazlitt, Radicalism, conversation, histories of art, British art, literature

Lois Oliver (University of Notre Dame (USA) in London), ‘Monk or lover? A nineteenth-century artist’s dilemma’ 23/LO1

Abstract: Alexandre Antigna’s Scène d’atelier (1848 Paris Salon) depicts the artist with palette in hand, turning away from the sacred work in progress on his easel to enjoy a break with his two models: his ‘monk’ is now playing cards with his ‘angel’, who relaxes in an alluring state of undress. The picture sets up an opposition between the sacred and the secular, the ideal and the real, invenzione and imitatio, wittily addressing the shift towards genre painting in nineteenth-century France, while simultaneously highlighting the creative challenge posed by the competing ideologies of the post-1815 Catholic revival and growing religious scepticism. It also raises a question that concerned many male artists: what was the relationship between art, love, and spirituality? As this paper argues, the question was complicated by conflicting concepts of creativity inherited from the classical and Christian traditions that had become thoroughly entangled in nineteenth-century paintings of the Old Masters.  

Key words: sacred and the secular, nineteenth-century painting, Catholicism, love and spirituality, Antigna

Matthew Greg Sullivan (University of York), ’”Vivid presentiments of action and character”: Allan Cunningham’s Anecdotes of British Sculptors’ 23/MGS1

Abstract: Lively biographies of British artists, with material to instruct and entertain were – as Horace Walpole regretted in 1762 – difficult to construct from the limited materials available to biographers of British art. By the early years of the nineteenth century the situation had changed, with many anecdotes, loosely based on traditional European topoi, becoming both a functioning unit and a battleground in the histories that were being constructed of British art. Allan Cunningham’s Lives of the Most Eminent Artists of 1828-31 was the most influential attempt to date to effectively integrate detailed anecdotes of artists into a narrative of British art that placed ‘Nation’ and ‘Nature’ at its heart. This article examines Cunningham’s varied use of anecdote in the Lives of British Sculptors (vol 3). These stories function within the context of his grand narrative of Nation and Nature, and his lionisation of Chantrey. Sometimes his strategies involved the undermining of known anecdotes told of Roubiliac, Bacon and Damer. Elsewhere he creates new, and usually ironic, versions of recognisable topoi of childhood genius, transcendent inspiration, imitation of the ancients, and the taming of Nature. These anecdotes, and anti-anecdotes, can be contrasted with the un-ironic use of established classic anecdotal forms in the accounts that he gave of Francis Chantrey.

Key words: British sculpture, historiography of sculpture, Allan Cunningham, Sir Francis Chantrey, John Bacon, John Flaxman, Louis-Francois Roubiliac, anecdotes

Anna Frasca-Rath (Friedrich-Alexander-University in Erlangen), ‘The origin (and decline) of painting: Iaia, Butades and the concept of ‘Women’s Art’ in the 19th Century‘ 23/AFR1

Abstract: The 86 paintings by Johann Georg Hiltensperger that decorate the Gallery of the History of Ancient Painting in the New Hermitage in St. Petersburg are all based on anecdotes about ancient artists. These encaustic paintings on copper panels represent the birth, blossoming and decline of ancient painting. The central part of the gallery is dedicated to history painting and its most important practitioners, such as Apelles, Zeuxis and Parrhasios. Interestingly, only the parts on the painting’s origin and decline include depictions of female artists, namely Butades, and Iaia. The positioning of these women artists is the point of departure for this article, as it mirrors concepts of ‘women’s art’ (Frauenkunst) within 19th-century art historiography. Especially the anecdote about the daughter of Butades was discussed by contemporary authors such as Ernst Guhl and Wilhelm Lübke, who used the story to underscore that it was more appropriate for the ‘female temperament’ to copy nature than to invent subject matter. The lack of inventio thus meant that women artists were better suited to the lesser genres, such as self-portraits and landscapes, than to higher art, such as history painting. Iaia perfectly illustrates these ideas, as she is depicted at the moment of beholding herself in a mirror whilst painting her self-portrait. This article addresses questions of gender within anecdotes about ancient artists and their artistic and art-historiographical reception during the 19th century, while also considering earlier depictions by artists such as Sofonisba Anguissola. How did the reception of Butades and Iaia contribute to constructing a notion of ‘women’s art’? How was the question of gender discussed within art historiography?

Key words: 19th century, artist anecdotes, classical tradition in art, women art, Ernst Guhl

Benjamin Harvey (Mississippi State University), ‘Refusing to play Vasari: Roger Fry’s Cézannian anecdotes’ 23/BH1

Abstract: This paper explores Roger Fry’s monograph Cézanne: A Study of His Development (1927) in light of the author’s strong resistance to, and strategic use of, an anecdotal approach to art history. Writing a decade before Kris and Kurz identified the anecdote as the ‘primitive cell’ of artists’ biographies, Fry already associated it with problems of originality and authenticity. In his earlier review of Ambroise Vollard’s biography of the artist, Fry complimented the author for playing ‘Vasari to Cézanne’, but Walter Sickert teased Fry for merely repeating Vollard’s stories. Fry’s review, Sickert noted, was ‘filled with personal details extremely amusing, interesting and illuminating; and, on the whole, Mr Fry re-told us in English… what Vollard said.’ Fry had no personal knowledge of Cézanne, no amusing tales of his own to offer; as Sickert’s words suggest, he needed to take a different approach, for the sake of both the market and his own credibility. Instead of anecdotes, his monograph stressed his first-hand experiences of the artist’s paintings, which, when correctly arranged and described, yielded a ‘developmental’ narrative. Fry would only readmit anecdotes—just two to be exact, both culled from Vollard—because they ‘afford[ed] so vivid a contrast’ with each other and reiterated his main theme. While the first demonstrated ‘the sublime arrogance and self-confidence of the youthful Cézanne,’ the second revealed that ‘a lifetime of solitude and neglect’ had taught him ‘the lesson of humility.’ Ultimately, Fry still needed anecdotes to tell his moralizing tale about the humbling of proud Cézanne.

Key words: Roger Fry, Paul Cézanne, Ambroise Vollard, Walter Sickert, Virginia Woolf, Joachim Gasquet, humility, frames, biography, monograph, development

Christine Hübner (Leipzig University), ‘”Creations of the professor’s fertile mind” – August Hagen’s artists’ novels’ 23/CH1

Abstract: August Hagen (1798–1889), professor for history of art and aesthetics at the Prussian university of Königsberg, is the author of a series of historical novels on the subject of artists’ lives. Pretending to be transliterations of newly discovered or translated historical sources, Hagen re-wrote and novelized the lives of artists from the fifteenth and sixteenth century, enriching them with elements of light fiction. This paper focuses on the question of how Hagen’s novels were written, read and reviewed in a period marked by the development of history of art as an academic discipline. 

Key words: August Hagen, romantic art historiography, Carl Friedrich von Rumohr, Giorgio Vasari, Albrecht Dürer, Lorenzo Ghiberti, popular historical novels, pretended authenticity, appropriation, Königsberg

The influence of the Vienna School of Art History before and after 1918 – Part 3

Stefaniia Demchuk (Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv), ‘The influence of the Vienna School of Art History on Soviet and post-Soviet historiography: Bruegel’s case’ 23/SD1

Abstract: This essay looks at the longstanding debates over the influence of the Vienna School of Art History on Soviet and post-Soviet Art History. From the beginning, Soviet Art History vacillated between orthodox Marxism, its materialism and approach to culture as a superstructure, and idealism if not transcendentalism of Russian pre-war art history. Despite the ideological split between Europe and the USSR, personal contacts as well as circulation of books and ideas, encouraged Soviet art historians to reconsider and adopt certain methods of the Vienna School. This process was ambiguous. Firstly, it triggered the emergence of a ‘Marxist’ Bruegel (Nikolai Nikulin, Boris Vipper) opposed to his image of an intellectual and humanist created by the Vienna art historians. And, secondly, it inspired scholars as Mikhail Alpatov and Nataliia Gershenson-Chegodaeva to study Bruegel from the perspective of gestalt/macchia or Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte. In present-day post-soviet Bruegel studies, one can spot how occasional borrowings from Viennese scholars’ writings for interpretation of the separate works replaced the interest for their methodology. Rejection of theory for the purely practical case studies, grounded in Anglo-American publications, often resulted in epigone or insignificant works, deprived of strong argument and novelty.

Keywords: Bruegel, the Vienna School of Art History, Soviet art historiography, post-Soviet art history.

Csilla Markója (Hungarian Academy of Sciences) and Kata Balázs (acb ResearchLab, Budapest), ’The Tolnay–Panofsky affair or, loyalty to the youth: Max Dvořák, the Vienna School, and the Sunday Circle’ 23/MB1

Abstract: The conflict between Charles de Tolnay and Erwin Panofsky that grew unprecedentedly acrimonious in the history of the discipline – the so-called Tolnay–Panofsky affair – was more than mere personal bickering. The documents clearly reveal that the ‘affair’, which basically affected financial and professional positions, was based on embarrassingly ordinary, occasionally petty-minded questions instead of scientific arguments, and led to a break of relationship probably in spring 1943. It also directs the attention to the science political consequences of the hierarchic establishment of American science financing and academia in general in the interwar years and the 1940s, and to differences between European and American scholarship. It can be gleaned that Tolnay’s efforts to be allotted raised stipends (often by a great degree, as the documents unanimously testify) and a confirmed position led to the deterioration of his relationship with the Princeton IAS leaders and community – in spite of the fact that the former leader of the Institute Flexner took Tolnay’s side, at times with threats to Panofsky and Oppenheimer, and accusing Panofsky of professional jealousy. Though Tolnay received a raised scholarship up to 4000 dollars for three years, the institute decided to part with him in 1948. In the background of the affair, however, one may discover conflicts based on the diverging views on art history by Panofsky and Tolnay rooted far deeper, in the elementary influences of the Vienna School of Art History on the one hand, and of the Sunday Circle and György Lukács, on the other. The art philosophical aspects and methodological consequences of these dissenting concepts of art history may bear significance for the practitioners of the discipline today as well.

Key words: Vienna School of Art history, György Lukács, Charles de Tolnay, Erwin Panofsky, hierarchy of American academic funding

Zehra Tonbul (Istanbul Sehir University), ‘From Strzygowski’s “Orient oder Rom” to Hans Sedlmayr’s “Closest Orient”’ 23/ZT1

Abstract: The article presents a history of art historical studies at the University of Vienna in the first half of the twentieth century in terms of its approach to oriental topics. It takes as its starting point a 1937 letter of Hans Sedlmayr, then-director of the Institute of Art History, to Ernst Diez, previously a professor of oriental studies at the same university. In his letter, Sedlmayr rejected Diez’s request to teach at the University, where he had left in 1926, stating that an academic position for ‘oriental art’ was a utopia. He declared his emphasis as the study of Byzantine and Balkan art, which he characterized as ‘the part of the Orient closest to us’: ‘das uns am nächsten liegende gebiet des Orients’. Sedlmayr’s letter opens perspectives on the changing place of oriental studies at the Institute and hints at its changing geographies. This article works backwards from Sedlmayr’s letter to trace an alternative academic history of the renowned Vienna School that unfolds the controversy between the art historiographical geographies of the Orient and Rome.

Key words: Vienna School of Art History, Oriental art historiography, Josef Strzygowski, Ernst Diez, Hans Sedlmayr, twentieth century academic history

The Artist Interview – An interdisciplinary approach to its history, process and dissemination: Guest edited by Lucia Farinati (Kingston University) and Jennifer Thatcher (University of Edinburgh)

Lucia Farinati (Kingston University) and Jennifer Thatcher (University of Edinburgh), ‘Preface’ 23/FT1

Abstract: Why has there been no history of the artist interview as a critical genre in its own right? The critical introduction, two papers and four documents in this special issue consider the interview’s significance beyond that of a historical source and journalistic tool. They scrutinise the process of conducting and disseminating an interview, from pre-production to post-production, considering the ethics implicated in what is modified. Treating the life of the artist interview – rather than just the life of the artist – as an object of study offers an alternative to the biographic model of interviews (as emphasised in oral history, for example). This approach expands the scope of the artist interview to include more creative uses, such as a form of artistic practice in alternative contemporary art magazines, or in performance, sound and video art. The political potential for artist interviews is also explored, as a means of contesting dominant art-historical narratives.

Keywords: artist interview, biography, oral history, Audio Arts, performativity, transcription, archive, dialogic practices


Lucia Farinati (Kingston University) and Jennifer Thatcher (University of Edinburgh), ‘Mapping the contemporary historiography of the artist interview as a literary and critical genre: a critical introduction’ 23/FT2

Abstract: Providing context for the two papers and four documents in this issue, this critical introduction explores the case for establishing the artist interview as a critical genre. It examines the status of artist interviews in relation to author interviews and the fields of oral history, art practice, art criticism and art history. The interview’s performative nature is emphasised, and the supposed ‘authenticity’ of the artist’s voice questioned. The potential existence of multiple variants of the ‘same’ interview problematises the artist interview’s status in archives – which is the original interview? A link is made between artist interviews and feminist methodologies, based on valuing the embodied nature of speech. Researching interviews goes to the heart of artists’ involvement in writing art history: the extent to which their words should be valued and trusted.

Keywords: artist interview, biography, oral history, Audio Arts, performativity, transcription, archive, dialogic practices

Reva Wolf (State University of New York at New Paltz), ‘The artist interview: an elusive history’ 23/RW1

Abstract:The history of the artist interview is a tantalizing subject, not least because of the breadth of associations with other histories that it involves and invites, such as with journalism, broadcasting technology, psychoanalysis, performance, and literature.  Yet, exactly on account of this constellation of associations, it is a decidedly slippery subject, difficult to grasp.  In this paper, I discuss this impediment to the writing of a history of the artist interview—outlining the sheer quantity of material involved—and then offer some thoughts on how to productively move forward.  I provide a summary historiography, noting how the topic has been reinvented with each decade beginning in the 1990s.  I propose that we envision the writing of the history of the artist interview as a collaborative endeavor and offer suggestions for what form such a collaboration might take.

Keywords:  artist interview historiography, artist interview history, Halsman, Warhol, interview as art, speech event

Poppy Sfakianaki (University of Crete), ‘From ‘Portraits d’artistes’ to the interviewer’s portrait: interviews of modern artists by Jacques Guenne in L’art vivant (1925–1930)’ 23/PS1

Abstract: Between 1925 and 1930, when artists’ interviews were still not a regular feature of the art press, the French art critic Jacques Guenne, co-director of one of the most important Parisian art journals for modern art, L’art vivant, published in it a series of illustrated artists’ interviews under the title ‘Portraits d’artistes’. Moreover, in 1927 Guenne edited and reprinted a selection of his interviews in a book. Treating the published interviews as fiction, as the echo of the real interviews, the article examines how they constructed the artists’ public image via the mediating role of Guenne, thus increasing their visibility in the public sphere. Furthermore, it argues that the interviews contributed to the construction of the public image of the interviewer and the promotion of his aesthetic ideal that was also that of the journal that he managed.

Key words: artists’ interviews, Jacques Guenne, L’art vivant, mediation, mediatization, art press, art criticism, modern art

Documents for The Artist Interview

Lucia Farinati (Kingston University) and Jennifer Thatcher (University of Edinburgh), ‘Commentary on the documents’ 23/FT3

Clive Phillpot (Independent), ‘Both sides of the microphone’ 23/CP1

Abstract: The author has worked with the British Library Artists’ Lives project both as interviewer with Gustav Metzger, and interviewee with Cathy Courtney. Various other interviews in which he participated have been preserved in a range of formats; many have been published. He discusses both the disparate conduct of these as well as inherent challenges. Lengthy conversations with the stateless artist and activist Gustav Metzger (1926-2017), and the American Pop and mail artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995), generated very different results. In addition to his ongoing British Library interview, two substantial interviews with him were recently published, one by Elizabeth Zuba concerning Ray Johnson, and another by Ashley McNelis about artist books. Diverse procedures for ensnaring the words of the artist have been recounted, including mishaps, and many routes leading to reproducible and noteworthy results have been described.

Keywords: biography, autobiography, memories, artists’ lives

Jean Wainwright (The University for the Creative Arts, London), ‘Small lies? Authenticity and the artist interview’ 23/JW1

Abstract: This paper examines the ethical and art-historical questions that are raised when conversations with artists are edited for sound clips or transcribed for books and catalogues. Should the reader of an interview be aware of how much has been ‘tidied up’ or redacted? Does it matter that what one is reading is a version of the authentic truth of the original?

Drawing on four contrasting examples, I will trace the significance of the editing process, from the uttered voice to the edited page. Using Gretchen Berg’s interview with Andy Warhol, I discuss the ‘authentic’ artist’s statement. With Warhol’s a: A Novel, I explore the limits of a literal transcription. Discussing my series of interviews with the artist Morten Viskum, I examine the months-long process of determining the psychological underpinnings of his work. Finally, with the artist Nathalia Edenmont, I consider the interview in the context of a traumatic confession.

Keywords: the artist’s interview, interviewing, authenticity, transcription, ethics, recording

Claire M. Holdsworth (Independent), ‘Vocal acts: video art and the artist’s voice’ 23/CH1

Abstract: This article explores the iterative ways in which artists’ voices are recorded and revisited in British video art. Examining dialogic speech acts, this multimedia contribution analyses two very different artworks: In Two Minds (made from 1978 onwards) by Kevin Atherton and Kensington Gore (1982) by Catherine Elwes. It discusses the recording and replay of the spoken voice in these works, referring to discourses on sound (Connor, 2000; Dolar, 2006), to re-examine approaches to modernism in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the archiving (Schneider, 2001; 2005) of such works thereafter.

Key words: interview, voice, video art, performance art, intermedia, Atherton, Elwes

Lauren Cross (Independent), ‘Artist interviews and revisionist art history: women of African descent, critical practice and methods of rewriting dominant narratives’ 23/LC1

Abstract:In the field of art history, critical modes of inquiry prompt the production of new areas of analysis and discovery. Black feminist thought, African art and curatorial history, for instance, offer models for reinterpreting the experiences of hidden and marginalised voices that tend to be overlooked. For women artists and scholars of African descent, the lack of critical artist voices in art-historical scholarship is often detrimental – perpetuating the ways in which communities of colour feel excluded from knowledge production. In this regard, scholars across interdisciplinary fields have proposed artist interviews to be important strategies for documenting and re-narrating art-historical narratives (Jordan; Kreamer; Obrist; Walker; Whitehead). In this article, the researcher will analyse audio/audio-visual recordings and transcripts of interviews with African American artists conducted for narrative inquiry, oral history and documentary film. The paper assesses the potential for artist interviews to be sites for reframing, reclaiming and rewriting art histories by women artists of African descent.

Keywords:critical theory, black feminist thought, curatorial research, body of knowledge, women artists of African descent, artist interviews, revisionist art history


Karl Johns (trans.), ‘Ernst Gombrich: “Some reminiscences of Julius von Schlosser as a teacher”, Kritische Berichte, 16th Year, 1988 no. 4, pp. 5-9’. Originally published as Ernst H. Gombrich, ‘Einige Erinnerungen an Julius von Schlosser als Lehrer’, Kritische Berichte 4/1988, pp. 5-9. 23/KJ1

Abstract: Originally published as Ernst H. Gombrich, ‘Einige Erinnerungen an Julius von Schlosser als Lehrer’, Kritische Berichte 4/1988, pp. 5-9. These memories cannot be and are not intended as anything more than a very modest complement to the autobiographical writings by Julius von Schlosser himself, in his contribution to the volume, Die Kunstwissenschaft der Gegenwart in Selbstdarstellungen (Leipzig: Meiner, 1924) and his Geschichte der Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte (Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Institutes für Geschichtsforschung, supplementary vol. 13, no. 2, Innsbruck, 1934).

Key words: Julius von Schlosser, Benedetto Croce, Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, Josef Strzygowski, Sammlung für Plastik und Kunstgewerbe, Vasari, Schlosser’s political views

Karl Johns (ed. and trans.), ‘Erica Tietze-Conrat, “On Drawings”’. 23/KJ2

Abstract: Originally published as ‘Ueber Handzeichnungen’, Kunstgeschichtliche Anzeigen Beiblatt de Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung, edigiert von Max Dvořák, Jahrgang 1913 Heft 1/2, Innsbruck: Wagner 1913, pp. 41-51, signed February 1914. The following remarks have been inspired by the essay by Franz Martin ‘Haberditzl, Über Handzeichnungen’, which appeared in the fourth issue of Die graphischen Künste during 1913; this comprised an essay on distinguishing draftsmanship from the other arts made on flat surfaces and characterizing its unique qualities. The loose disposition of the essay by Haberditzl makes it clear that the present remarks are intended more as a parallel account than as a critical review. We might see the work of art as an example of the eternal law of the only way in which the intellect can present itself within the material world; the painting is bound to a given form of material such as canvas or wooden panel etc., and this material imposes its law – that of the surface. The colours combine to one sort of imaginary illusion or another also balance one another in the surface; this flat nature recalls the canvas. What about in drawings? The paper lies bare and visible; it is not a demand of the material, the flatness is not a product of the colour harmony but the material speaks itself. The unified effect of this combination of intellect and material is dissolved and has become a parallel rather than a coagulated phenomenon. It is so natural and obvious to see that this is paper that this plays no part in the aesthetic impression of the drawing. The material only gains an artistic value as creating space or rhythm by the colour of its paper, whether it is white or coloured, and the comparative emphasis within the drawing. By the elimination of this particular materially bound aspect from consciousness, the other more intellectual aspect is successfully heightened, and we speak of the abstraction of drawings.

Key words: psychology, representation, surface, line, ground, ornament

Karl Johns (ed. and trans.), ‘Erica Tietze-Conrat, “On leg poses in art history”’. 23/KJ3

Abstract: Originally published as ‘J. J. Tikannen, “Die Beinstellungen in der Kunstgeschichte. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der künstlerischen Motive”, Tom. XLII Nr. 1 of the Acta Societatis Scientiarum Fennicae Helsingfors 1912’, Kunstgeschichtliche Anzeigen Beiblatt der Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung, Redigiert von Max Dvořák, Jahrgang 1912 Heft 3/4, Innsbruck: Wagner 1912, pp. 66-69. This book is written so simply and is so pleasantly straightforward that we are tempted to publicly thank the author for such a document of his open humanity; he nowhere suppresses contradictory facts for the sake of his construction, and at every turn lays out the obscurities inherent in the subject. The motifs of the poses of legs in the visual arts are arranged according to characteristic groups: 1. the stance with legs spread, the foot turned to the side and the dance master pose; 2. the stance with knees together; 3. the stance with one foot supported and legs crossed; each of these individual groups is treated in its historical development. The motif of these poses can fill a function as when an executioner stands with his legs apart in order to better wield his axe; on the other hand it can be an expressive motif when a small satyr crosses the supporting leg with his free leg to express his ‘dolce far niente’ as he also does with his inclined small head, his soft body leaning against the trunk of a tree aside from the inactivity of the legs. Yet such a strict distinction is not always possible. There are instances in which a particular pose of the legs has been frequently used without ever having been interpreted as conveying an expression – such as the straddling stance in the Trecento; and then suddenly within the general development of art, the increasing realism during the Quattrocento, the pose began to clearly assume an inherent ‘moral’ context and was used to express this. The motif was savoured. The later generations of artists and spectators were only able to enjoy its perpetuation. In this way it then declined from its character as an expressive motif clearly imparting a concept (in the Filippo Scolari by Castagno, the St. George of Donatello) to a ludicrous distortion of its once so serious implication (pose of Landsknechts). A revival (numerous examples in the work of Jacques-Louis David) can never be achieved without an aftertaste of the caricature once attached to it; we sense that the motif no longer seems comical, but retains a strong tang of theatrical pathos.

Key words: motif, identification, description, expressive potential


David Cast (Bryn Mawr College), ‘Germany/ England: inside/outside’ 23/DC1

Abstract: The arrival in England in the 1930s of scholars, trained in the German tradition of Kulturwissenschaft, had an immense effect on the study of the history of art in their new country. Yet the intellectual exchange went both ways and the present article, beyond describing the often difficult personal and professional situations these exiles encountered in their new surroundings, examines how much their work was affected by the traditions and opportunities of intellectual enquiry, familiar in England since the middle of the XIXth century. Note is also taken of the public effect of their work, most notably in the activities of Pevsner, both in his editorship of the volumes in the Pelican History of Art and his tireless travels for the series The Buildings of England.  

Key words: Warburg Institute, Fritz Saxl, Margot and Rudolf Wittkower, Anthony Blunt, Nikolaus Pevsner, Ernst Gombrich


Jeffrey Collins (Bard Graduate Center), ‘Market values in eighteenth-century Rome’. Review of: The Art Market in Rome in the Eighteenth Century: A Study in the Social History of Art, edited by Paolo Coen, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018 [Studies in the History of Collecting and Art Markets, vol. 5], xii + 234 pp., 80 colour illus., €116/$134 hdbk, ISBN 978-90-04-33699-5. 23/JC1

Abstract: This anthology, edited by Paolo Coen, contains contributions on various aspects of the creation, marketing, display, sale, and subsequent circulation of works of art (primarily paintings, drawings, and antique sculpture) in Rome from the early seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries. By providing new detail on the ways Italian, British, German, and French artists, dealers, and collectors took part in the Roman art market, broadly conceived, the volume helps pick up where Francis Haskell left off in Painters and Patrons: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque (1963). Of particular interest are essays by Coen on a set of copy drawings after Old Master pictures prepared for the 9th Earl of Exeter under the direction of Thomas Jenkins, and by Daniela Gallo on the prices paid for ancient sculpture acquired for the Pio-Clementino Museum and the economic repercussions for Rome’s antiquities market.

Keywords: Rome, eighteenth century, art market, art dealers, art prices, Paolo Coen, Thomas Jenkins, Daniela Gallo, Pio-Clementino Museum

Cynthia Paces (The College of New Jersey), ‘Nationalising Czech Modernism’. Review of: Marta Filipová, Modernity, History, and Politics in Czech Art, Series: Routledge Research in Art and Politics, New York: Routledge, 2019, 224 pp, 31 b. & w. illus., bibliography, index, $155 hdbk, ISBN 978-1138585669. 23/CP1

Abstract: This monograph investigates Czech modernism from the late nineteenth century to 1938. Rather than viewing modernism as a rejection of nationalism, art historian Marta Filipová argues that many Czech artists and art critics sought ways to ‘nationalise modernism’. Because modernism’s development coincided with Czech nation-building and state formation, artists and critics used modernist forms to demonstrate their nation’s progressiveness. Filipová focuses on the intellectual history of the relationship between nationalism and modernism, by examining Czech art journals and other art writing. She takes a thematic approach and investigates various modernisms, considering regionalism, social class, gender, political differences, and ethnic diversity.

Keywords: Bohemian Lands, Czechoslovakia, nationalism, modernism, art history

William E. Wallace (Washington University in St. Louis), ‘Michelangelo’s principles or Panofsky’s?’ Review of: Michelangelo’s Design Principles, Particularly in Relation to Those of Raphael by Erwin Panofsky, edited by Gerda Panofsky, translated by Joseph Spooner, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2020, ISBN 978-0-691-6526-4. 23/WW1

Abstract: The discovery in 2012 of Erwin Panofsky’s Habilitation thesis on Michelangelo is just short of sensational.  The thesis, written for the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Hamburg in 1919-20, ambitiously sets out to define the fundamental design principles of Michelangelo’s art, especially as they can be articulated in contradistinction to the art of Raphael.  The thesis, published in a luxurious facsimile German edition in 2014, now appears in an English translation permitting Anglo-Saxon readers the welcome opportunity to observe the maturing of one of the great figures of Art and Intellectual History.

Keywords: cubic thinking/constraint, design principles, Habilitationsschrift, Habilitation thesis, Michelangelo, Erwin Panofsky, Gerda Panofsky, plane/planar nature

Alex Weintraub (Columbia University), ‘Art History in light of Mallarmé’. Review of: Trevor Stark, Total Expansion of the Letter: Avant-Garde Art and Language after Mallarmé, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020, 440pp., 10 col. plates, 60 b. & w. illus., $£45.00 hdbk, ISBN 9780262043717. And Andrei Pop, A Forest of Symbols: Art, Science, and Truth in the Long Nineteenth Century, New York: Zone, 2019, 15 col. plates, 101 b. & w. illus., £25.00 hdbk, ISBN 9781935408369. 23/AW1

Abstract: A review essay of two recently published books, both of which consider the art historical legacy of the French poet, Stephane Mallarmé: Trevor Stark’s Total Expansion of the Letter: Avant-Garde, Art and Language After Mallarmé (MIT Press, 2020) and Andrei Pop’s A Forest of Symbols: Art, Science, and Truth in the Long Nineteenth Century (MIT Press, 2019). Pop and Stark advance sharply contrasting theses about what is often referred to as “the linguistic turn” in studies of Modernist art. Whereas Stark finds in Mallarmé a skeptical theory of language that now predominates in studies of early twentieth-century art, Pop turns to the poet precisely in order to reconsider the field’s commitments to re-describing pictures in linguistic terms. 

Key Words: Stéphane Mallarmé, Manet, Cubism, Symbolism, theory

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