1-20 of 28 Results  for:

  • Art History and Theory x
  • Twentieth-Century Art x
Clear all

Article

Stephen Bann

(b Cherbourg, Nov 12, 1915; d Paris, March 20, 1980).

French critic. His work is closely identified with the methods of Structuralism and Semiotics. By the 1970s he was one of the most internationally celebrated French critics and, although his main contribution was to the analysis of literature and other linguistic modes, his influence on the criticism of the visual arts was also substantial.

In two articles written during the early 1960s for the sociological journal Communications (‘Le Message photographique’, 1961, and ‘Rhétorique de l’image’, 1964; see L’Obvie et l’obtus), Barthes pioneered the study of photographs in their social and cultural context, paying particular attention to a colourful advertisement for pasta by the Panzani company. His detailed analysis of the way in which the photographic medium helps to endorse and authenticate the message of the advertiser looks back to the earlier, more impressionistic study of mass communications carried out in his Mythologies. But it is strengthened by Barthes’s determination to probe the philosophical implications of photography’s relation to the object depicted and its status as a ‘message without a code’. The fact that photography, alone among the different modes of visual communication, offered itself as a ‘mechanical analogue of the real’ implied that it needed more sophisticated modes of interpretation than the traditional arts, if it were to be considered semiotically. Barthes’s last published work ...

Article

Frances Spalding

(Heward)

(b East Shefford, Berks, Sept 16, 1881; d London, Sept 17, 1964).

English writer. He studied history at Trinity College, Cambridge (1901–2), where he came under the influence of the writer G. E. Moore (1873–1958) and met Thoby Stephen (1880–1906). On leaving Cambridge he spent time in Paris, and on his return to London he began to frequent the ‘Thursday evenings’ held at 46 Gordon Square, home of Thoby Stephen, his brother, Adrian, and his sisters, Vanessa (later Vanessa Bell) and Virginia (later Virginia Woolf). It was from these gatherings that the Bloomsbury Group emerged, Bell becoming a central figure of it largely due to his marriage to Vanessa Stephen in 1907.

In 1910 Bell met Roger Fry, who shared his interest in modern French art. Bell assisted with the organization of the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in 1912 and contributed to the current debates about art and aesthetics. His book, Art (London, 1914), popularized the notion of ‘significant form’: it stated that form, independent of content, was the most important element in a work of art. In this and other writings he simplified many of Fry’s ideas. ...

Article

Martin Jay

(b Berlin, July 15, 1892; d Port Bou, Spain, Sept 25, 1940).

German writer. He was born into a cultivated, assimilated German Jewish family and was compelled to leave Nazi Germany in 1933, first for Denmark and then France. Although the exiled Frankfurt Institute of Social Research in New York (later famous as the Frankfurt School) provided some support, his existence as an unaffiliated intellectual without university or party ties grew increasingly desperate. Finally driven to leave Paris in 1940, he was stopped for trivial bureaucratic reasons at the Spanish border and in a moment of despair took his own life. Only with the posthumous publication of a selection of his works in 1955, edited by Theodor W. Adorno and Gretel Adorno, did he emerge into the public eye, soon gaining an international reputation as possibly the most brilliant and original cultural critic of his era. Like many in his generation, Benjamin came under the spell of a politically ambiguous, romantic anti-capitalism during the waning years of the German empire under William II. An early fascination with messianic and redemptive religious themes, nurtured by his friendship with the great scholar of the Jewish cabbala, Gershom Scholem, remained a potent element in all his subsequent thought. Even when Benjamin turned to Marxism in the 1920s, in part because of friendships with the poet and dramatist Bertolt Brecht and the philosophers Ernst Bloch and Theodor W. Adorno, and a love affair with the Latvian Communist Asja Lacis, his theological preoccupations never dwindled. They remained perhaps most apparent in his linguistic philosophy, which revealed his hope in the restoration of a prelapsarian ...

Article

Margaret Moore Booker

(b Butrimonys, Alytus County, Lithuania, June 26, 1865; d Settignano, Italy, Oct 6, 1959).

American art historian, critic, and connoisseur. Berenson was perhaps the single most influential art historian in the USA for much of the 20th century. As the leading scholar and authority on Italian Renaissance art, his opinion greatly influenced American art museums and collectors, whom he guided in the purchase of many important works of art. His pupils and disciples became the curators of many of the world’s great museums. His dealings with art galleries also made him a highly controversial figure.

Born to Albert and Julia Valvrojenski in Lithuania, Berenson immigrated to Boston, MA, with his family in 1875, at which time his surname was changed to Berenson. Later called ‘BB’ by friends and family, he dropped the ‘h’ from his first name around 1915. Jewish by birth, he converted to Christianity and was baptized in 1885. He attended Boston Latin School, Boston University, and finally Harvard University, where he studied under Charles Eliot Norton and received a BA in ...

Article

Henri Béhar

(b Tinchebray, Feb 19, 1896; d Paris, Sept 28, 1966).

French writer. While still an adolescent he came under the influence of Paul Valéry and Gustave Moreau, who for a long period were to influence his perception of beauty. From that time on, his poetic creation interrelated with his reflections on art, which like Gide’s were conditioned by a moral code. He considered that it is not possible to write for a living, but only from interior necessity; in the same way, painting must always derive from an irrepressible need for self-expression. These criteria guided Breton both in his dealings with the Surrealist group (of which he was the uncontested leader) and in his articles on painting, collected in editions of Le Surréalisme et la peinture (first published in 1928).

Breton’s family were of modest means. He was educated in the modern section of a lycée, without any Latin or Greek, and had embarked on a study of medicine when he was called up to serve in World War I. During this period he was drawn to poetry by his fascination with Arthur Rimbaud. His meeting with the aesthete Jacques Vaché temporarily dulled his interest in Rimbaud, and instead he turned to Guillaume Apollinaire, whose advice and friendship were a significant influence on him. Through Apollinaire he came into contact with Marie Laurencin, Derain, De Chirico and Picasso, and became friendly with the French poet and novelist Philippe Soupault. The review ...

Article

Colin Lyas

(b Pescasséroli, Abruzzi, Feb 25, 1866; d Naples, Nov 20, 1952).

Italian historian, critic, philosopher and statesman. He began his intellectual career as a historian, and his concern for whether history is an art or a science led him to inquire into the nature of art and to produce, in 1902, his first major work in aesthetics, Estetica come scienza dell’espressione e linguistica generale. Here he distinguished between the ‘intuitive’ knowledge of things in their concrete particularity and the ‘logical’ knowledge of general concepts. Croce proposed that human beings passively receive bombardments of sensory stimuli and, using the faculty of intuition, produce from them objects he called ‘intuitions’ or ‘representations’, which give a particular form to otherwise unintelligible stimuli. A painter, using this faculty of intuition or representation, gives the otherwise inchoate welter of stimuli produced by, for example, a moonlit countryside, the particular form of a painting, which is an intuition or representation of that countryside. Intuiting the scene involves giving articulate expression to the otherwise incoherent mass of stimuli received on such occasions, and so intuition and expression are identical. All uses of language to express thoughts and feelings, as well as the visual arts or music, are acts of intuition, which master the flood of sensations to which we are continually subjected....

Article

Stephen Bann

(b El-biar, Algiers, July 15, 1930; d Paris, Oct 9, 2004).

French philosopher. In 1967 he published De la grammatologie and L’Ecriture et la différence. Subsequently he became identified with Deconstruction, a process of critical analysis whose effects have been widespread in the English-speaking world (see also Post-structuralism). Although ‘deconstructionist’ criticism has been largely confined to literary studies, Derrida’s contribution to the analysis and understanding of the visual arts is potentially almost as great. The strength of his approach derives from a decision to examine the historical and philosophical origins of the distinctions that are customarily made between different types of sign: between linguistic and visual signs, and between the messages of speech and writing. For Derrida, the dialogues of Plato display an explicit hierarchisation of spoken and written language: as in the myth of the origins of writing recounted in Plato’s Phaedrus. Written language is regarded as a mere secondary substitute for the presence and plenitude of the human voice, and Socrates described writing as a ‘dead word’, implying that it has no status except as an inadequate representation of a prior act of speech. Derrida, by contrast, has insisted on the condition of written language, as a ‘trace’ or network of traces recorded in the act of writing, rather than as a record of a prior event. It is easy to see the relevance of this notion to the theory and practice of ...

Article

Gisela Moeller

(b Berlin, April 12, 1871; d Berlin, April 13, 1925).

German architect, designer, writer and teacher. After moving to Munich in 1892, he abandoned his plan to become a teacher, deciding on a career as a freelance scholar. He then studied aesthetics, psychology and philosophy, being particularly influenced by the lectures of the psychologist Theodor Lipps. He also studied German literature, art and music. In 1895 he intended to write a doctorate on the theme of ‘The Construction of Feeling’. In spring 1896 he met Hermann Obrist, who persuaded him to abandon his proposed academic career and become a self-taught artist. As well as book illustrations and decorative pieces for the art magazines Pan and Dekorative Kunst, he produced decorative designs for wall reliefs, carpets, textiles, coverings, window glass and lamps. In 1897 he designed his first furniture for his cousin, the historian Kurt Breysig. His first architectural work, the Elvira photographic studio in Munich (1896–7; destr. 1944), decorated on its street façade by a gigantic, writhing dragon, was a quintessential work of ...

Article

Stephen Bann

(b Poitiers, Oct 15, 1926; d Paris, June 25, 1984).

French critic. He was one of a small group of French philosophers and critics who achieved worldwide fame in the 1960s by offering a distinctively new perspective on the human sciences. Although these thinkers were generally grouped under the heading of Structuralism, Foucault himself frequently denied being a Structuralist. He was more a historian whose choice of subject-matter—the history of madness, the birth of the clinic, the history of sexuality—involved him in an unremitting critical examination of the discourse through which his subjects of study had, as he saw it, been constituted.

Foucault’s major contribution to the history of art lies in the new attention he devoted to the issue of representation. In Les Mots et les choses (1966) he began his account of the relation between words and things from the Renaissance to the modern period with a brilliant analysis of Velázquez’s painting Las meninas. This was explained as a kind of allegory of the process of representation itself as it was conceived in the ‘classic age’ of the 17th and 18th centuries, an interplay of different ‘looks’. The painter Velázquez looks out at us, Foucault argued, but we also occupy the same viewing space as his sitters, the King and Queen of Spain, whose presence can be inferred from their appearance in the mirror opposite to us. This challenging interpretation of ...

Article

Frances Spalding

(Eliot)

(b London, Dec 14, 1866; d London, Sept 9, 1934).

English theorist, critic and painter. He was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, and King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied natural sciences. He was descended on both sides of his family from seven generations of Quakers, but he abandoned Christian beliefs on reaching adulthood. The legacy of Quakerism, however, continued to influence the direction of his career in his willingness to stand apart from mass opinion and from established authority, and in his distrust of all display.

On leaving Cambridge, he trained as a painter, first under Francis Bate (1853–1950), then for two months at the Académie Julian in Paris. He regarded the activity of painting as central to his life and continued to paint and exhibit throughout his career. Although critical opinion has never been high, his art stands out consistently for its intellectual clarity of construction. However, Fry also soon established a reputation as a scholar of Italian art. He made his first visit to Italy in ...

Article

Barbara Küng

(b Prague, April 14, 1888; d Zurich, April 9, 1968).

Swiss architectural historian, critic, teacher and writer. The son of a Swiss industrialist, he first studied mechanical engineering in Vienna. In 1913 he began to study art history in Zurich, continuing in Munich under Heinrich Wölfflin and producing his dissertation, Spätbarocker und romantischer Klassizismus, in 1922. The impressions he gained on his visit to the Bauhaus at Weimar in 1923 and his first meeting with Le Corbusier in 1925 were decisive for his future career. He developed lifelong friendships with the foremost architects of the Modern Movement, including Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Karl Moser, and in 1928 he was among the founders of the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, becoming its secretary general and a convinced proponent of its aims (see CIAM). His convictions were expounded mainly in his publications, including his ground-breaking study of the French engineering tradition, Bauen in Frankreich (1928), which played down aesthetic influences and had a wide influence on views of the history of the Modern Movement; it also established his reputation as a proponent of modern architecture, and during the next few years he stressed the exclusion of aesthetic considerations from the deliberations of CIAM....

Article

(Hans Josef)

(b Vienna, March 30, 1909; d London, Nov 3, 2001).

Austrian art historian, active in England. He read art history at the University of Vienna under Julius von Schlosser. On graduating in 1933 he was invited to help Ernst Kris, then keeper of decorative arts at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, in his study of caricature. With the rise of National Socialism, he emigrated to England in 1936, with a recommendation from Kris to Fritz Saxl, Director of the Warburg Institute. During World War II Gombrich served with British Intelligence, monitoring German broadcasts. After the war he returned to the staff of the Warburg, by then part of London University, and served as director of the Institute from 1959 to 1976. He lectured widely and received many university appointments; for instance, he was elected Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford (1950–53) and, later, at Cambridge (1961–3) and was also invited to Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (1959...

Article

Tim Benton

[Jeanneret, Charles-Edouard]

(b La Chaux de Fonds, Oct 6, 1887; d Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Alps-Maritimes, France, Aug 27, 1965).

Swiss architect, urban planner, painter, writer, designer and theorist, active mostly in France. In the range of his work and in his ability to enrage the establishment and surprise his followers, he was matched in the field of modern architecture perhaps only by Frank Lloyd Wright. He adopted the pseudonym Le Corbusier for his architectural work c. 1920 and for his paintings c. 1930. His visionary books, startling white houses and terrifying urban plans set him at the head of the Modern Movement in the 1920s, while in the 1930s he became more of a complex and sceptical explorer of cultural and architectural possibilities. After World War II he frequently shifted position, serving as ‘Old Master’ of the establishment of modern architecture and as unpredictable and charismatic leader for the young. Most of his great ambitions (urban and housing projects) were never fulfilled. However, the power of his designs to stimulate thought is the hallmark of his career. Before he died, he established the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris to look after and make available to scholars his library, architectural drawings, sketches and paintings....

Article

(b Simbirsk [later Ul’yanov], April 22, 1870; d Gorki [later Gorki-Leninskiye], nr Moscow, Jan 21, 1924).

Russian politician and theorist. Although he had no particular interest in art and little knowledge of art history, he did make several incidental observations and appraisals that were interpreted as indisputable dogma and as a call to action, and that determined the policies of the Communist Party with regard to culture. As the initiator of the organization and literature of the party, in 1905 he proposed (in the essay ‘Proletarian Organization and Proletarian Literature’) the idea of the strict independence of the arts from politics and parties. In a series of articles on Lev Tolstoy he opposed universal moral codes in favour of proletarian ethics. After the October Revolution of 1917 he called for the destruction of the monuments of the old order and the realization of a utopian Monumental Propaganda Plan, for which sculptures of revolutionary and socialist figures were commissioned and created throughout Russia. (The decree ‘On the Republic’s Monuments’ was published in ...

Article

Richard Guy Wilson

Term applied to the concept of the machine as a source of beauty, a concept particularly important in the development of art and design in Europe and North America in the 20th century. It can be argued, however, that the origins of the machine aesthetic lie in the 19th century, although few 19th-century architects, designers or writers were willing to think of machines as in themselves potential sources of beauty. Such writers as John Ruskin stressed instead the close affinity between organic forms, especially in decorative ornament, and aesthetic pleasure; a wide range of ‘modern’ machines from locomotives to kitchen implements continued therefore to be heavily ornamented. Moreover, the introduction of Mass production techniques, with industrial design replacing craftsmanship, was largely seen as incompatible with individual artistry and therefore aesthetic worth. In the 20th century, however, historians and polemicists of the Modern Movement, including Nikolaus Pevsner, Lewis Mumford, Sigfried Giedion and ...

Article

Troels Andersen

(Severinovich)

(b Kiev, Feb 26, 1878; d Leningrad [now St Petersburg], May 15, 1935).

Russian painter, printmaker, decorative artist and writer of Ukranian birth. One of the pioneers of abstract art, Malevich was a central figure in a succession of avant-garde movements during the period of the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and immediately after. The style of severe geometric abstraction with which he is most closely associated, Suprematism (see fig.), was a leading force in the development of Constructivism, the repercussions of which continued to be felt throughout the 20th century. His work was suppressed in Soviet Russia in the 1930s and remained little known during the following two decades. The reassessment of his reputation in the West from the mid-1950s was matched by the renewed influence of his work on the paintings of Ad Reinhardt and on developments such as Zero, Hard-edge painting and Minimalism.

Article

Jenefer Robinson

(b Paris, Nov 18, 1882; d Toulouse, April 28, 1973).

French philosopher and writer. He was a Catholic philosopher and for many years taught at the Institut Catholique, Paris. After serving as French ambassador to the Vatican (1945–8), he continued his university teaching career at Princeton, NJ, and elsewhere in North America.

In Art et scolastique (1920) Maritain formulated a theory of art and beauty based on Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas. Art (in the sense of craft) is a form of practical as opposed to speculative intelligence, the fine arts being distinguished from the useful arts in that they create a work of beauty that reflects the divine beauty. His most important book in Aesthetics, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (1953), an expanded version of the 1952 A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, develops the theme of the earlier book. Maritain suggested that works of art result from the poet’s ‘intuition’ or the painter’s ‘vision’, which is a kind of non-conceptual knowledge (knowledge through ‘connaturality’) consisting in ‘affective union’ between the artist’s subjectivity and the outer world. This knowledge is expressed through the work itself and is said to be conveyed by a ‘spiritualized emotion’ that gives form to the work. Maritain attacked formalism and the doctrine of Art for Art’s Sake and in ...

Article

Benjamin Flowers

Term for the diverse body of social theory based on the work of the German socialist and political economist Karl Marx (1818–83) and his collaborator Friedrich Engels (1820–95). Although commonly associated with political movements, Marxism also had an important impact on cultural production. Marxism continues to influence both the creation of art and architecture in the USA, and perhaps more importantly in this geographic and social context, its reception.

Marx, a voluminous thinker and writer, did not leave behind a major body of work addressing art. It was the project of many of those who came after Marx to articulate how Marxism, as a mode of social analysis, could shed light on the processes of artistic production and the interpretation of its significance. While Marx was confident that art was one of the ‘ideological forms’ through which class conflict took place, he also recognized that artistic development in societies did not depend exclusively on the form of social organization. The task for the heirs of the Marxist tradition was to determine how his insights into the ways capitalism revolutionized social relations, economic conditions, and political reality offered new approaches to understanding the labours of art and architecture....

Article

(b Amersfoort, March 7, 1872; d New York, Feb 1, 1944).

Dutch painter, theorist, and draughtsman. His work marks the transition at the start of the 20th century from the Hague school and Symbolism to Neo-Impressionism and Cubism. His key position within the international avant-garde is determined by works produced after 1920. He set out his theory in the periodical of Stijl, De, in a series of articles that were summarized in a separate booklet published in Paris in 1920 under the title Le Néo-plasticisme (see Neo-plasticism) by Léonce Rosenberg. The essence of Mondrian’s ideas is that painting, composed of the most fundamental aspects of line and colour, must set an example to the other arts for achieving a society in which art as such has no place but belongs instead to the total realization of ‘beauty’. The representation of the universal, dynamic pulse of life, also expressed in modern jazz and the metropolis, was Mondrian’s point of departure. Even in his lifetime he was regarded as the founder of the most ...

Article

Michael Podro and Margaret Barlow

(b Hannover, March 30, 1892; d Princeton, NJ, March 14, 1968).

German art historian, active in the USA. He wrote primarily on late medieval and Renaissance art in northern Europe and Italy, mostly, but by no means exclusively, on painting.

Panofsky’s doctoral dissertation (1915) was on the relation of Dürer’s theory of art to that in Renaissance Italy; in 1923 he and Fritz Saxl published a study of Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I. In 1926 he became the first professor of art history at the new university of Hamburg, where he was closely involved with Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), the professor of philosophy, and with Saxl and Aby Warburg at the Bibliothek Warburg. Panofsky’s name is often narrowly associated with the search for the subject-matter of paintings through reference to traditional imagery and literature. However, his writing always involved a much more ambitious and coherent mode of critical interpretation: he sought consistently to place individual works of art in relation to what he took to be an underlying aspect of the human situation, the reciprocity between ‘objectivity’—our receptive relation to the external world—and ‘subjectivity’—the constructive activity of our thought....