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Article

Roger Cardinal

(b Bar-sur-Aube, June 27, 1884; d Paris, Oct 16, 1962).

French philosopher . The son of a provincial shoemaker, he came late to philosophy after teaching natural science (1919–30), then rose to eminence at the Sorbonne to enjoy for several years the status of cultural guru. Bachelard followed an idiosyncratic yet consistent path from an early concern with the philosophy of scientific knowledge as grounded in empirical observation to a fascination with the ways in which human perceptions of concrete phenomena inevitably yield to the pressure of subjective feeling and fantasy; his mature work represents a celebration of the richness of the world as it is filtered and transfigured by consciousness, especially in the work of creative writers. While works by such painters as Monet or van Gogh are occasionally cited in his essays, he wrote only one major text about art, for an album of engravings by the little-known Albert Flocon (b 1909). The relevance of Bachelard’s ideas to the visual arts or to architecture is indirect, and derives from the fluency and suggestiveness of certain of his more lyrical pages, on such themes as the sensation of space and the fantasy of flying, or the associations inherent in landscapes and natural textures. His last, brief book returns to his favourite theme of the ‘poetics of fire’ in a compelling meditation upon the solitary candle-flame that might profitably be read as an involuntary commentary on the chiaroscuro paintings of Georges de La Tour....

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

David Kinmont

(b Paris, Oct 18, 1859; d Paris, Jan 3, 1941).

French philosopher. The son of a Polish Jewish musician, he took his baccalauréat at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris and entered the Ecole Normale Supérieure in 1878. He gained his Licencié ès Lettres in 1879 and during 1881–8 taught in secondary schools at Angers, Clermont Ferrand and Paris. The publication of one of his two doctoral theses, Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (Paris, 1889), brought him public recognition. It was followed in 1896 by Matière et mémoire.

Bergson was concerned with the problem of expression, and he attempted to resist the linguistic snares that he associated with conceptual thinking, arguing instead for an organic philosophy. He was aware of the inadequacies of the mechanistic determinism of 19th-century scientism, especially as presented in the English philosopher Herbert Spencer’s First Principles (London, 1862). Bergson saw reality as a constant state of dynamic flux in which past, present and future formed a single continuum. The question of time was all important to him, and he insisted that the time of consciousness existed on multiple interrelated levels. The fusion of these heterogeneous instants comprised a duration. This was not purely quantitative measurable time, but time as it is experienced by human consciousness. To Bergson, duration meant memory, and memory was synonymous with consciousness, an unending flow rather than a succession of discrete instants....

Article

James Smalls

The Black Arts Movement spans the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Inherently and overtly political in content, it was an artistic, cultural and literary movement in America promoted to advance African American “social engagement.” In a 1968 essay titled “The Black Arts Movement,” African American scholar Larry Neal (1937–81) proclaimed it as the “artistic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept.” The use of the term “Black Power” originated in 1966 with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) civil rights workers Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks. Quickly adopted in the North, Black Power was associated with a militant advocacy of armed self-defense, separation from “racist American domination” and pride in and assertion of the goodness and beauty of “Blackness.”

In addition to “Black Power,” the slogan “Black is Beautiful” also became part of the Black Arts Movement and the Black Cultural Movement (also known as Black Aesthetics). The aim of these maxims was to counter and dispel the widespread notion throughout Western cultures that black people’s natural features, such as skin color, facial characteristics and hair, were inherently ugly. The central purpose was to subvert decades of anti-black rhetoric and “to make African Americans totally and irreversibly proud of their racial and cultural heritage.” Black Arts Movement cultural theorists and artists reasoned that promotion of a black aesthetic was mandatory to help the African American community perceive itself as not only beautiful, but also as proud of the legacy of African American achievement, self-determinacy and self-identification with all black peoples throughout the African diaspora. The tone was militant and separatist, not conciliatory and assimilationist, and resulted in a call for a revolutionary art that spoke to a definable black aesthetic. 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

Michelle P. Brown

(b Brighton, July 16, 1867; d Kew, May 1, 1962).

English museum curator and collector. He was the son of a coal merchant and in 1884 joined the family firm, where he remained until the end of 1891. He had early on been attracted by the aesthetics and politics of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and had met and assisted such figures as John Ruskin, William Morris and Octavia Hill (1838–1912). His role as secretary to the Kelmscott Press (1892–8) fostered a particular love of books. From 1900 to 1904 he was in partnership with the process-engraver Sir Emery Walker (1851–1933). As a private collector of printed books and manuscripts and as director (1908–37) of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Cockerell was responsible for developing this area of study, as well as other aspects of medieval and Renaissance art. In 1908 he organized the first major exhibition of illuminated manuscripts at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, also editing the catalogue. He subsequently published a number of scholarly works. As both a curator and a collector of manuscripts he did much to influence British bibliophily, ranking alongside the bibliophiles Eric Millar and Henry Yates Thompson (...

Article

Tapati Guha-Thakurta

(b Colombo, Aug 22, 1877; d Needham, MA, Sept 9, 1947).

Anglo-Sinhalese writer and curator, active also in India and the USA. More than those of any other scholar of Indian art, culture and aesthetics, Coomaraswamy’s vision and views have dominated and moulded the current understanding of Indian art. He began his career at the start of the 20th century as a champion of an aesthetic revaluation of Indian art. His powerful defence of Indian art and Eastern aesthetics was motivated, on the one hand, by a cultural nationalism that resented the intrusion of British colonial rule in India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and, on the other hand, by a utopian ideal of a medieval village civilization that rejected the materialism of the modern, industrial West. This ideal of an alternative socio-cultural order, discovered in traditional Sri Lanka and India, generated in time a more specific quest for an alternative aesthetic of Indian art. From the active mission of the cultural regeneration of Asia, Coomaraswamy retreated, with age, into the more aloof world of iconography, Eastern religions and metaphysics....

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

Casey Haskins

(b Burlington, VT, Oct 20, 1859; d New York, June 1, 1952).

American philosopher, educator, and author. Dewey taught at the University of Michigan (1884–94), Ann Arbor, the University of Chicago (1894–1904), and Columbia University (1904–30), New York. A major presence in American intellectual life during much of the 20th century, aside from his role in developing a philosophical view known as American Pragmatism, Dewey is best known for his advocacy of progressive education. He founded the Chicago Laboratory School with Jane Addams, was a founder of the New School for Social Research, and was an advisory council member for Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Dewey was a prolific author of popular articles and scholarly books, including Democracy and Education (1916), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), The Quest for Certainty (1929), Experience and Nature (1925), and Art as Experience (1934), widely considered the most influential work in 20th-century philosophical aesthetics by an American author....

Article

Andrew Dobson

(b Biebrich, Hesse, Nov 19, 1831; d Seis, Tyrol [now Bolzano, Italy], 1911).

German philosopher. He had a profound influence on philosophy in the 20th century, particularly on Martin Heidegger in Germany and José Ortega y Gasset in Spain. He revived the discipline of Hermeneutics, in which it is held that parts of a complex whole can be understood only in terms of that whole. He argued that this was the correct form of investigation of the human world, which he believed to be characterized by just such complex part–whole relationships. One consequence of hermeneutics is that there are no self-evident starting-points or certainties on which to base investigation. In the context of the visual arts, Dilthey believed there to be no timeless aesthetic principles with which to judge technique or content. He held that art was one among many forms of human expression that had to be appreciated in the light of its historical context, although he did suggest that human nature provides a repertory of universal principles that govern aesthetic appreciation. He believed certain colours and lines, and certain relations of symmetry and rhythm to be intrinsically pleasing....

Article

Francis M. Naumann

(b Blainville, Normandy, July 28, 1887; d Neuilly-sur-Seine, Oct 2, 1968).

French painter, sculptor and writer, active also in the USA. The art and ideas of Duchamp, perhaps more than those of any other 20th-century artist, have served to exemplify the range of possibilities inherent in a more conceptual approach to the art-making process. Not only is his work of historical importance—from his early experiments with Cubism to his association with Dada and Surrealism—but his conception of the ready-made decisively altered our understanding of what constitutes an object of art. Duchamp refused to accept the standards and practices of an established art system, conventions that were considered essential to attain fame and financial success: he refused to repeat himself, to develop a recognizable style or to show his work regularly. It is the more theoretical aspects implicit to both his art and life that have had the most profound impact on artists later in the century, allowing us to identify Duchamp as one of the most influential artists of the modern era....

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

Amanda du Preez

Term used to indicate the complex visual matrix incorporating the one who looks as well as the one who is looked at. This means the one who imposes the gaze and the one who is the object of the gaze are both implicated in the construction of the gaze. The concept was addressed initially by Sigmund Freud’s concept of scopophilia (‘pleasure in looking’ or voyeurism) and later in Jacques Lacan’s formulation of the mirror stage and its role in identity formation. Lacan formulated the complex role of the gaze in constructing the relation between interior self and exterior world as two kinds of subjects—not only as a powerful subject gazing at the world but also as a lacking, objectified subject encountering the gaze outside himself. For the most part the link between the gaze and power is entrenched in theories on the gaze, since the directed gaze of the powerful subject has the ability to subjugate and even petrify its objects as exemplified in the terrifying gaze of Medusa in Greek mythology. The construction of the gaze happens within an asymmetry of power. In recent times, the gaze has become a trope within visual culture for the critical analysis of several entwined ideas concerning class, race, ethnography, sex, gender, religion, embodiment, ideology, power, and visuality. In this article the powerful directed gaze is analysed through the categories of the clinical gaze, colonial gaze, touristic gaze, and the male gaze. Finally, theorizing possibilities of going beyond the gaze are considered....

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....