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Article

Frank Felsenstein

(b Milston, Wilts, May 1, 1672; d London, June 17, 1719).

English writer and politician. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Queen’s College, Oxford, receiving his MA in 1693. Between 1699 and 1703 he travelled on the Continent; in his Remarks upon Several Parts of Italy (1705) he noted that Italy was ‘the great school of Musick and Painting’, and a primary purpose of his tour was ‘to compare the natural face of the country with the Landskips the [classical] Poets have given us of it’. His Remarks became a vade-mecum on artistic matters for 18th-century British travellers.

Although he was active as a politician (he was appointed Under-Secretary of State in 1706 and was an MP, 1708–19), Addison’s greatest influence was as an educator and popularizer of ideas on taste and culture, which he achieved through the periodical essay. He contributed to The Tatler, a thrice-weekly half-sheet founded by his friend Richard Steele (1672–1729), which ran from ...

Article

Paul Davies and David Hemsoll

(b Genoa, Feb 14, 1404; d Rome, April 1472).

Italian architect, sculptor, painter, theorist and writer. The arts of painting, sculpture and architecture were, for Alberti, only three of an exceptionally broad range of interests, for he made his mark in fields as diverse as family ethics, philology and cryptography. It is for his contribution to the visual arts, however, that he is chiefly remembered. Alberti single-handedly established a theoretical foundation for the whole of Renaissance art with three revolutionary treatises, on painting, sculpture and architecture, which were the first works of their kind since Classical antiquity. Moreover, as a practitioner of the arts, he was no less innovative. In sculpture he seems to have been instrumental in popularizing, if not inventing, the portrait medal, but it was in architecture that he found his métier. Building on the achievements of his immediate predecessors, Filippo Brunelleschi and Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, he reinterpreted anew the architecture of antiquity and introduced compositional formulae that have remained central to classical design ever since....

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

(b Paris, April 9, 1821; d Paris, Aug 31, 1867).

French writer and critic. He was brought up to love painting and from a young age was interested in aesthetics and art criticism. This aspect of his work remained little known for years, but its quality and its importance for the development of his poetry and for the development of modernism were later recognized.

Baudelaire’s first piece of criticism, the somewhat timid Salon de 1845, was succeeded by the Salon de 1846 and articles on the Exposition Universelle of 1855 (Le Pays, Le Portefeuille). After he had achieved notoriety with the publication of his most important volume of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal (Paris, 1857), he continued to write occasional pieces on the visual arts, for example on the ‘Salon de 1859’ (Revue française), and ‘Le Peintre de la vie moderne’ (a series in Figaro), which was a study of Constantin Guys, as well as articles on Delacroix, the painter who dominated all of Baudelaire’s writing on art. Initially these articles were not widely published....

Article

Howard Caygill

(b Berlin, June 17, 1714; d Frankfurt an der Oder, May 26, 1762).

German philosopher. He was educated at Halle University where he taught philosophy between 1735 and 1740; he then moved to the University of Frankfurt an der Oder, where he taught until his death. He is remembered for the invention of philosophical aesthetics (he introduced the term ‘aesthetics’), based initially on Cartesian principles. His writings also include works in logic, metaphysics, ethics and political philosophy. With the development of a philosophical aesthetics in the Meditationes philosophicae de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus (Reflections on Poetry; 1735) and the incomplete Aesthetica (1750–58), Baumgarten revolutionized both the dominant early Enlightenment philosophy of Christian Wolff (1679–1754) and the philosophy of art. In contrast to Joachim Christoph Gottsched’s reduction of the judgement and creation of works of art to the Wolffian notion of reason, Baumgarten extended the bounds of reason to include the experience of art. He did so by identifying beauty with sensible perfection, defining this as an aesthetic perfection that differs from the rational perfection of logic but is no less valid....

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

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

(b Paris, Nov 1, 1636; d Paris, March 13, 1711).

French writer. His influence on art was indirect: although he made no claim to knowledge of art, he unwittingly played a part in the development of historical painting during the second part of Louis XIV’s reign and particularly in the development of the theory of art in the 18th century. At the beginning of the personal reign of Louis XIV he was at first excluded from the distribution of pensions awarded through the mediation of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, the particular function of which was to lay down the iconography to be used in works that the King had commissioned; through Charles Perrault, it to some degree dominated the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. In 1683, after Boileau had finally obtained admission to the Académie des Inscriptions, it ceased to deal with iconography, and from then on artists working for the King enjoyed greater freedom.

However, Boileau’s main influence on French art was through his didactic poem ...

Article

Michael J. Lewis

(Gottlieb Wilhelm)

(b Nordhausen, May 29, 1806; d Berlin, June 19, 1889).

German architect, theorist, teacher and writer. He entered the Berlin Bauakademie in 1827 and soon became a leading figure in the new Architekten-Verein zu Berlin (see Berlin §II 3.). Like many of his generation, he was much influenced by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and had a youthful fascination with the Gothic. His first book was a study of medieval timber architecture. He was particularly concerned with the relationship between style and construction and he soon began to apply this analysis to Greek architecture. The result was his monumental Die Tektonik der Hellenen (1843–51). The Rundbogenstil architect Heinrich Hübsch had already suggested that the forms of ancient Greek architecture were based on stone construction and not derived from timber antecedents. Bötticher expanded this insight into a vast system that explained all of Greek architecture in structural terms. For him, Greek architecture was rational building, its forms corresponding absolutely to the requirements of the stone used in its post and lintel construction. This constituted a major upheaval in the interpretation of Classical architecture, insisting that its elements were sanctioned neither by their historical pedigree nor by Platonic perfection of form, but rather by immutable physical and material laws. Bötticher briefly considered synthesizing Greek and Gothic structural principles to form a new style, but he quickly abandoned the idea, arguing that it would be superficial. In a prophetic ...

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

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

Angelica Goodden

(b Langres, Haute-Marne, Oct 5, 1713; d Paris, July 31, 1784).

French writer, philosopher and critic. He was a man of the most wide-ranging talents: novelist, dramatist, philosopher and writer on science, mathematics and music. In his lifetime he was probably best known as editor of the Encyclopédie (1751–65)—an encyclopedic dictionary of the arts, sciences and trades—and came comparatively late to art criticism. Characteristically determined to express a personal view on art and to attempt to justify his judgements, he had his only noteworthy precursor in Etienne La Font de Saint-Yenne; periodical journalism devoted to the arts in 18th-century France yielded no commentator to match Diderot in vigour and independence of mind. He was early acquainted with the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, Roland Fréart, Jean Cousin (i), Roger de Piles and Charles Le Brun, and the theory of drama he published in 1757, the Entretiens sur ‘Le Fils naturel’, reveals a keen interest in the relations between the visual arts and the theatre. Diderot was convinced that taste is the product of experience and observation, a notion he developed in his ...

Article

Edwina Burness

(b Aldwincle, Northants, Aug 9, 1631; d London, May 1, 1700).

English writer. After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge, he settled in London for life in 1654 and never travelled beyond England. In 1668 he was appointed Poet Laureate, and Historiographer Royal two years later, but he lost both posts on the overthrow of James II in 1688. He wrote, adapted or collaborated on nearly thirty plays, as well as publishing numerous critical essays and poems, notably the two-part political satire Absalom and Achitophel (1681–2). His translations into English include Virgil’s Works (1697). Throughout his career Dryden was interested in debates on the respective values of particular forms of art. In several poems, including the ode To the Pious Memory … of Mrs Ann Killigrew (1686) and his verses To Sir Godfrey Kneller (1694), he explored the various parallels to be made between the arts, regarding painting as the ‘dumb sister’ of poetry. Kneller, who painted several portraits of Dryden (e.g. ...

Article

(b Beauvais, Dec 21, 1670; d Paris, March 23, 1742).

French historian, critic and diplomat. He served as a diplomat under Louis XIV and the Régence; having been rewarded with an ecclesiastical benefice, he devoted himself to writing. His principal work, Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et sur la peinture (1719), was important for aesthetics in France and remained in use as a popular textbook until the 19th century. It owed much of its success to the way in which it echoed some of the conflicts in the Ancients and Moderns, Quarrel of the, in which Dubos largely took the side of the Ancients. He did not, however, put forward a unified theory of imitation of antiquity but offered a collection of discussions of the diverse manifestations of artistic genius. He considered a work of art as an object of instinctive judgement by perceptive individuals, whose response is based not on a reasoned knowledge of the rules of art but on a ‘sixth sense’ possessed by everyone....

Article

Werner Szambien

(b Paris, Sept 18, 1760; d Thiais, Dec 31, 1834).

French architect, teacher and writer. He was one of the most influential teachers of his time, and his radically rationalist approach, which emphasized priority of function and economy of means, was expressed in analytical writings that remained popular into the 20th century. He studied under Pierre Panseron (fl 1736) and from 1776 in the office of Etienne-Louis Boullée. He also took courses with Julien-David Le Roy at the Académie d’Architecture and participated in competitions under the guidance of Jean-Rodolphe Perronet. He twice came second in the Prix de Rome: in 1779 for a museum and in 1780 for a school. During the 1780s he worked as a draughtsman for Boullée and for the engraver Jean-François Janinet. In 1788 construction began in the Rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, Paris, of his Maison Lathuille, a building with Néo-Grec decoration but with a layout characterized by its extreme simplicity. About 1790 he executed a series of drawings entitled ...

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 ...