Category Archive 'Art'
27 Apr 2020

A Knight

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Ornamental Plaque of a Knight, ca. 1300, possibly British, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My guess would be German, because of the antler crests.

18 Feb 2020

The Salovey Administration Destroys Another Great Yale Department

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The late Vincent Scully lecturing Eurocentrically years ago.

Heather MacDonald, BK ’70, demolishes the cant being used to justify remodeling Yale’s once-illustrious History of Art Department into a distribution center for Marxist agitprop and Multicultural Identity Stroking.

By 1974, when I enrolled at Yale, its faculty had long since abdicated one of its primary intellectual responsibilities. It observed a chaste silence about what undergraduates needed to study in order to have any hope of becoming even minimally educated; curricular selections, outside of a few broad distribution requirements, were left to students, who by definition did not know enough to choose wisely, except by accident. So it was that I graduated without having taken a single history course (outside of one distribution-fulfilling intellectual history class), despite easy access to arguably the strongest American history faculty in the country. Scully’s fall semester introductory art history course has been my anchor to the past, providing visual grounding in the development of Western civilization, around which it is possible to develop a broader sense of history.

But now, the art history department is junking the entire two-semester sequence, as the Yale Daily News reported last month. Given the role that these two courses have played in exposing Yale undergraduates to the joys of scholarship and knowledge, one would think that the department would have amassed overwhelmingly compelling grounds for eliminating them. To the contrary, the reasons given are either laughably weak or at odds with the facts. The first reason is the most absurd: the course titles (“Introduction to the History of Art: Prehistory to the Renaissance” and “Introduction to the History of Art: Renaissance to the Present”). Art history chair Tim Barringer apparently thinks students will be fooled by those titles into thinking that other traditions don’t exist. “I don’t mistake a history of European painting for the history of all art in all places,” he primly told the Daily News. No one else would, either. But if the titles are such a trap for the Eurocentric unwary, the department could have simply added the word “European” before “Art” and been done with it. (Barringer, whose specialities include post-colonial and gender studies as well as Victorian visual culture, has been teaching the doomed second semester course—a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse.)

Barringer also claims that it was “problematic” to put European art on a pedestal when so many other regions and traditions were “equally deserving of study.” The courses that will replace the surveys will not claim to “be the mainstream with everything else pushed to the margins,” he told the Daily News. Leave aside for the moment whether the European tradition may legitimately form the core of an art history education in an American university. The premise of Barringer’s statement—that previously European art was put on a pedestal and everything else was pushed to the margins—is blatantly false. The department requires art history majors to take two introductory-level one-semester survey courses. Since at least 2012, the department has offered courses in non-Western art that can fulfill that requirement in lieu of the European surveys. Those classes include “Introduction to the History of Art: Buddhist Art and Architecture”; “Introduction to the History of Art: Sacred Art and Architecture”; “Global Decorative Arts”; “The Politics of Representation”; and “The Classical Buddhist World.” No one was forced into the two Western art courses.

Nor would anyone surveying the art history catalogue think that Yale was “privileging” the West, as they say in theoryspeak. That catalogue is awash in non-European courses. In addition to the introductory classes mentioned above, the department offers “Japan’s Classics in Text and Image”; “Introduction to Islamic Architecture”; “The Migrant Image”; “Sacred Space in South Asia”; “Visual Storytelling in South Asia”; “Aztec Art & Architecture”; “Black Atlantic Photography”; “Black British Art and Culture”; “Art and Architecture of Mesoamerica”; “The Mexican Cultural Renaissance, 1920– 1940”; “Painting and Poetry in Islamic Art”; “Aesthetics and Meaning in African Arts and Cultures”; “Korean Art and Culture”; “African American Art, 1963 to the Present”; “Art and Architecture of Japan”; “Textiles of Asia, 800–1800 C.E.”; and “Art and Politics in the Modern Middle East,” among other courses. The Western tradition is just one among many. Nevertheless, Marissa Bass, the director of undergraduate studies in the department, echoed Barringer’s accusation of Eurocentrism. The changes recognize “an essential truth: that there has never been just one story of the history of art,” Bass told the Daily News. But Yale does not tell just one story of the history of art. Department leaders have created a parody of their own department simply in order to kill off the Western survey courses.

Those courses must also be sacked because it is impossible to cover the “entire field—and its varied cultural backgrounds—in one course,” as the Daily News put it. If this statement means that the span of time covered in each of the one-semester Western art classes is too large, non-Western survey courses are as broad or broader. “Chinese Painting and Culture” covers 16 centuries. “Power, Gender, and Ritual in African Art” covers nearly two millennia. “Introduction to the History of Art: Buddhist Art and Architecture” covers seven centuries. “Introduction to the History of Art: Sacred Art and Architecture” covers several millennia. None of these courses is facing extinction.

Barringer promises that the replacement surveys will subject European art to a variety of deconstructive readings designed to pull that tradition down from its alleged pedestal. The new classes will consider Western art in relation to “questions of gender, class, and ‘race,’” he told the Daily News in an email, carefully putting scare quotes around “race” to signal his adherence to the creed that race is a social construct. The new courses will discuss the involvement of Western art with capitalism. Most intriguingly, the relationship between Western art and climate change will be a “key theme,” he wrote.

Barringer’s proposed deconstruction of Western art illustrates a central feature of modern academia: The hermeneutics of suspicion (Paul Ricoeur’s term for the demystifying impulse that took over the humanities in the late 20 century) applies only to the Western canon. Western academics continue to interpret non-Western traditions with sympathy and respect; those interpreters seek to faithfully convey the intentions of non-Western creators and to help students understand what makes non-Western works great. So, while the replacement European art survey courses will, in Marissa Bass’s words, “challenge, rethink, and rewrite” art historical narratives, the department will not be cancelling its Buddhist art and architecture class due to the low representation of female artists and architects, nor will it “interrogate” (as High Theory puts it) African arts and cultures for their relationship to genocidal tribal warfare, or Aztec art and architecture for their relationship to murderous misogyny.

A must-read.

29 Jan 2020

Yale’s Latest PC Gesture Makes the Spectator

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cole_thomas_the_course_of_e
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.

James Panero tells us that Yale imported a Cambridge bolshie to “decolonize” the History of Art Department.

Are we in our own revolutionary moment? Many of our leading institutions clearly believe so. Yale University has been working overtime to prove it is on the right side of history. ‘Problematic’ colleges have been renamed. ‘Offensive’ stained-glass windows have been knocked out. Only the leadership of an Ivy League school could spread such a poisonous rash. Heading the charge against the Dead White Male has been a progressive Yale bureaucracy that is, for the most part, pale and stale.

Now the task of dismantling Yale’s famous art history survey course has fallen to a scholar I respect, Tim Barringer. British-born, Barringer is the Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University and has been a leading curator at the Metropolitan Museum. He even mounted the Met’s exceptional 2018 exhibition on Thomas Cole.

Following a 2017 mandate to ‘decolonize’ Yale’s Department of English, Barringer is giving over the keys of Yale’s famous art survey course to the identity vandals. According to the Yale Daily News, instead of one class that will tell the story of art from ‘Renaissance to the Present’, new courses will, Barringer says, be devised to consider art in relation to a five-step history lesson, ‘questions of gender, class and race’, with further discussion of art’s ‘involvement with Western capitalism’. Of course, ‘climate change’ will also be a ‘key theme’.

Art doesn’t fare well in revolutionary times. Likewise, revolutionary sentiments are often revealed in the treatment of art. If only Professor Barringer had looked more carefully at another five-step history lesson, Thomas Cole’s ‘Course of Empire’ tableau (1833-36), he might have seen how civilizations burn down from decadence as well as assault.

RTWT

That whirring sound you hear in the background is grand old Yale Art History professors, men like Sumner Crosby who taught the Gothic Cathedral course and Charles Seymour who taught the Italian Renaissance Art course, who fished for salmon together every summer on the Upsalquitch, spinning in their graves at 78 RPM.

05 Nov 2019

Niccolò Machiavelli? By Leonardo da Vinci??

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Art News:

As art history lovers flock to the Louvre in Paris to see the blockbuster show celebrating the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, a new painting by his hand may have been discovered at a French chateau.

The work, a portrait of a bald man that has been in the historic house for centuries, could be by the Renaissance master, although the evidence is far from clear.

A 145-year-old letter mentioning a portrait of the philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli by Leonardo was discovered last year in the archives of Château de Valençay in central France. The chateau once belonged to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, the French diplomat known better as Talleyrand, who died in 1838 after serving under several French regimes, including Napoleon’s.

The director of the historic house, Sylvie Giroux, told Agence France Presse that “it is not impossible” that Leonardo painted the Italian political theorist, best known for his political treatise, The Prince.

The local archivist, Anne Gerardot, is more cautious. “Just because it says so in the archives does not mean it’s true,” she told AFP, noting that she thinks the Old Master portrait more closely resembles the French Renaissance essayist Montaigne.

There’s also the issue of the painting’s wooden support, which has a smooth appearance uncharacteristic of Leonardo’s time. It could be the result of restoration work done in the 1890s, or a clue that the painting was made at a later date.

But the painting, featuring a thin, bearded figure in a black coat and white shirt with necktie, does match the description in the letter, which mentions a portrait on wood measuring 22 by 17 inches. In the letter, which is dated 1874, the estate manager who wrote it says: “I am having the concierge wrap up and put on the train a box containing a painting (Machiavelli by Leonardo da Vinci).”

The chateau plans to submit the painting to a battery of tests in the hopes of determining its subject and authorship.

It’s difficult to judge from the photograph, but my own guess is: neither of the above.

08 Aug 2019

“The Puma Attacking the Plein Air Artist”

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Pere Llobera (Spanish, b. 1970), The puma attacking the plein-air artist, 2012.

20 Jun 2019

Alleged Van Gogh Gun Sold at Auction

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Art News:

The rusty gun which Van Gogh probably used to shoot himself sold for €162,500 at a Drouot auction in Paris this afternoon. ArtAuction Rémy le Fur, which estimated the revolver at €40,000-€60,000, describes it as “the most famous weapon in art history”. The private buyer has not been named.

Although the seller has also not been identified by the auctioneer, she is believed to be Régine Tagliana, an artist and the daughter of Roger and Micheline Tagliana, who in 1952 had bought the café where Van Gogh lodged in 1890. The Tagliana family were given the gun in around 1960 by the farmer who had found it on his land, just behind the château in Auvers-sur-Oise. This is the village just north of Paris where the artist spent his final 70 days.

The auctioned Lefaucheux pinfire revolver is almost certainly the weapon used, although this cannot be conclusively proved. The type of weapon, its calibre, its severely corroded state and the location and circumstances of the find strongly suggest it is the gun. In the evening of 27 July 1890 Van Gogh suffered a gunshot wound while in a wheatfield and he then staggered back to the inn, dying two days later.

The discovery of the gun once again raises the question of whether Van Gogh committed suicide or was murdered. The 2011 biography by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith argued that he was killed by a local young man, René Secrétan, possibly by accident.

RTWT

Earlier post.

05 Jun 2019

Modern Art

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23 May 2019

Diana and Stag

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Joachim Friess, Diana and Stag automata drinking cup, 1620, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

href=”https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/193623″>Elizabeth Cleland, 2017:

This object was prized, though not unique; other versions survive, all targeted at the wealthiest clientele. A wind-up mechanism once moved the group forward on hidden wheels, making it vibrate as if with life. Uniting modern technology, precious casework, and visual appeal, automatons were celebrated as a novelty entertainment for guests of the most moneyed classes. Removing the stag’s head reveals a drinking vessel; the diner in front of whom the piece stopped had to drain the cup.

HT: Karen L. Myers.

28 Apr 2019

“Interior al aire libre”

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Ramon Casas i Carbó, “Interior al aire libre (Outdoor interior), 1892, La Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

02 Apr 2019

Traveling Exhibits

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Andrew Dickson, in the Guardian, describes the complexities of loaning, packing, shipping, uncrating, and displaying important works of art.

Even if you are an obsessive gallery-goer, it’s possible you haven’t put much thought into how the works on the wall came to be there. The art world prefers it this way: what happens behind the signs reading “No Entry: Installation in Progress” remains a ferociously guarded secret. The only hint that this Song dynasty bronze has arrived from that private collection in Taiwan, for example, is a discreet credit on the wall. It may be that, absorbed in our face-to-face encounter with the artwork – what Walter Benjamin described as its “aura” – many of us prefer not to gaze too deeply into that mystery.

Yet the mechanisms required to get that bronze from Taipei to St Ives – loan agreements, insurance, packing, couriering, shipping, handling, installation – are delicate, expensive and complex. Behind every exhibition is an intricate logistical web that reaches across the globe.

Institutions are under huge pressure to share collections, both in the UK and internationally. Missed Frida Kahlo at the V&A? It has recently opened at Brooklyn Museum, just as the Metropolitan Museum’s 2017 exhibition of early Diane Arbus has come to London. The British Museum’s A History of the World in 100 Objects is shortly to arrive in Hong Kong, by way of Abu Dhabi, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and China. It has been on the road since 2016. Many museums now rely on blockbuster exhibitions to drive visitor numbers; often, the only way of paying for these is to partner with another institution and send the show on tour.

The demands of creating large shows populated with star loans, and the logistics required to make them come together, are intense. “It has become a sort of arms race,” said one curator I spoke to, with a trace of a sigh.

A hyperactive art market creates a momentum all its own. According to the most recent analysis, global art sales total nearly $68bn (£52bn) annually, a 10% increase since 2008, with some 40m transactions made last year alone. Vast quantities of art are continually being shifted from auction houses to purchasers to dealers and back again, especially in the fast-expanding Asian markets. Two decades ago, there were around 55 major commercial art fairs; now, there are more than 260.

The end result is that more art than ever, worth more money than ever, is travelling more than ever. Fine-art shipping is expensive, specialised and technically challenging work. Old masters are fragile, but some contemporary sculptures are so friable – or so poorly fabricated – that moving them anywhere is a major risk. And there is the added pressure of handling artefacts that are almost immeasurably culturally important.

There is perhaps another paradox here, too: desperate for a glimpse of genuine “aura” in an era of digital reproduction, we crave that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see those real Cézannes sharing a real wall, and stand in their presence, as the artist stood. But although the real value of a work of art lies in its being seen, simply putting it on display – let alone making it travel – is guaranteed to put it at risk, and probably shorten its life. “At the end of the day, you have to make your peace with that,” one conservator said. “You have to think what art is for.”

RTWT

25 Feb 2019

The History of the Color Orange

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Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton, Flaming June, 1895, Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico.

My Modern Met:

The color orange has a long history that dates back centuries. The ancient Egyptians used a yellow-orange hue made from the mineral realgar in their tomb paintings. As with many minerals used to make pigments, realgar is highly toxic—it contains arsenic—and was used by the Chinese to repel snakes, in addition to being used in Chinese medicine.

Another related mineral, orpiment, was also used to make pigments. Just as toxic as realgar, it was also a highly prized trade item in Ancient Rome. Orpiment leans toward a golden yellow-orange and its resulting pigment, as well as that of realgar, was used in Medieval times in illuminated manuscripts.

Interestingly, in Europe, the color orange didn’t have a name until the 16th century. Prior to that time it was simply called yellow-red. Before the word orange came into common use in English, saffron was sometimes used to describe the deep yellow-orange color. This changed when orange trees were brought to Europe from Asia by Portuguese merchants. The color was then named after the ripe fruit, which carries through many different languages. Orange in English, naranja in Spanish, arancia in Italian, and laranja in Portuguese.

RTWT

A good color for starting conversations when worn on St. Patrick’s Day.

20 Feb 2019

Nice Little Monet

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At Christie’s February 27th Sale:

Lot 11
— Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Saule pleureur et bassin aux nymphéas [Weeping willow and pond with water lilies]
stamped with signature ‘Claude Monet’ (Lugt 1819b; lower left)
oil on canvas
78 1/2 x 70 3/4 in. (199 x 180 cm.)
Painted in Giverny in 1916-1919.

Estimate “upon request,” meaning: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

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