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Abstract art  

Anna Moszynska

Term applied in its strictest sense to forms of 20th-century Western art that reject representation and have no starting- or finishing-point in nature. As distinct from processes of abstraction from nature or from objects (a recurring tendency across many cultures and periods that can be traced as far back as Palaeolithic cave painting), abstract art as a conscious aesthetic based on assumptions of self-sufficiency is a wholly modern phenomenon (see Abstraction).

In the late 19th century, and particularly in Symbolist art and literature, attention was refocused from the object to the emotions aroused in the observer in such a way that suggestion and evocation took priority over direct description and explicit analogy. In France especially this tradition contributed to the increased interest in the formal values of paintings, independent of their descriptive function, that prepared the way for abstraction. In his article ‘Définition du néo-traditionnisme’, published in L’Art et critique...


Abstract Expressionism  

David Anfam

Term applied to a movement in American painting that flourished in the 1940s and 1950s, sometimes referred to as the New York School or, very narrowly, as Action painting, although it was first coined in relation to the work of Vasily Kandinsky in 1929. The works of the generation of artists active in New York from the 1940s and regarded as Abstract Expressionists resist definition as a cohesive style; they range from Barnett Newman’s unbroken fields of colour to De Kooning, Willem’s violent handling of the figure. They were linked by a concern with varying degrees of abstraction used to convey strong emotional or expressive content. Although the term primarily denotes a small nucleus of painters, Abstract Expressionist qualities can also be seen in the sculpture of David Smith, Ibram Lassaw and others, the photography of Aaron Siskind and the painting of Mark Tobey, as well as in the work of less renowned artists such as ...



Nelson Goodman

Term used in an art context in several ways: in general for processes of imagemaking in which only some of the visual elements usually ascribed to ‘the natural world’ are extracted (i.e. ‘to abstract’), and also for the description of certain works that fall only partially, if at all, into what is commonly understood to be representational. Differing ideas and manifestations of abstraction appeared in artists’ works in the successive modern movements of the 20th century (see Abstract art). As the notion of abstraction in the second sense is always dependent on what the parameters of representation are thought to be, the two terms can be contiguous in definition, raising interesting points for the general theory of reference. For instance, an abstract work is often defined as one that does not represent anything, but not every work that does not represent anything is necessarily abstract. A painting that has a fictitious subject, for example a painting of Don Quixote or Camelot, does not represent anything (for there is no such person or place) but is not therefore abstract. A Zeus-picture or a Paradise-picture is no more abstract than a Napoleon-picture or a Paris-picture. An abstract work neither represents anything nor is representational....



International group of painters and sculptors, founded in Paris in February 1931 and active until 1936. It succeeded another short-lived group, Cercle et Carré, which had been formed in 1929 with similar intentions of promoting and exhibiting abstract art. Its full official title was Abstraction-Création: Art non-figuratif. The founding committee included Auguste Herbin (president), Georges Vantongerloo (vice-president), Hans Arp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Hélion, Georges Valmier and František Kupka.

Membership of Abstraction-Création was in principle open to all abstract artists, but the dominant tendency within the group was towards the geometric formality championed by Theo van Doesburg and by other artists associated with De Stijl. Works such as Jean Hélion’s Ile-de-France (1935; London, Tate), which came to typify the group’s stance, owed more to the post-war ‘rappel à l’ordre’ interpreted by the Purists in terms of a ‘classic’ and ‘architectonic’ ordering of art, design and architecture, than to the biomorphic abstraction derived from Surrealism. During its brief existence the group published annual ...


Addison, Joseph  

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 ...



Kendall L. Walton, Martha C. Nussbaum, John Marenbon, François Quiviger, and Jenefer Robinson

Branch of Western philosophy concerned primarily with the arts, especially the fine arts, although it often treats the concepts of natural beauty and appreciation of nature as well. The notion of fine art and that of a corresponding branch of philosophy are of relatively recent origin, dating from the 18th century, although historical antecedents of many of the particular issues now recognized as belonging to aesthetics go back to antiquity. The present usage of the term stems from its adoption in 1735 by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, who employed the Greek aisthesis (perception) to distinguish the study of sensory, perceptual concerns, such as beauty, from logic, the study of reason and intellect.

The primary subject-matter of aesthetics is the complex cultural institution in which works of art are embedded, including artistic creation, performance, appreciation, interpretation, criticism, judgement, and the various roles the arts play in people’s lives and in society. The aesthetician steps back from this institution and examines it from the outside (although the line between participating in the institution and studying it is somewhat arbitrary). In the 20th century the term has come to embrace an enormously diverse collection of particular issues, with no very definite central core. However, several frequently occurring themes can be identified....


Aesthetics in Islamic art  

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy concerned primarily with the arts, with concepts of natural beauty and the appreciation of nature. Whereas an important body of literature has been written about Classical and medieval European concepts of beauty, relatively little has been composed about the subject in Islamic art, although historians of literature have dealt extensively with aesthetic concepts in their studies of classical Arabic. Arabic was undoubtedly the lingua franca of medieval Islamic literary culture, but different and distinct literatures emerged in regions where Persian and Turkish prevailed, particularly in the period after c. 1250. It seems therefore somewhat naive to imagine that a single aesthetic—however deeply based in the shared heritage of the Koran and Islamic thought—could have pertained throughout Islamic literary—or visual—culture from the shores of the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and from the steppes of Central Asia to the Sahel of Africa.

Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 1954–)...


Africa: Art and aesthetics  

Henry John Drewal and Philip L. Ravenhill

The art-historical and aesthetic categories applied to African art are in a constant state of flux. The history of their usage has been dogged by misapprehensions and misrepresentations, although this is hardly surprising, given that they often represent the inappropriate application of Western intellectual and aesthetic concepts. This article provides an overview of the history of scholarly research into and discussion of African art and in particular figure sculpture (see §1 below), followed by an account of the vast increase in studies of indigenous systems of aesthetic evaluation since the 1960s (see §2 below) (see also Africa).

The perception and identity of African art in universal art history are profoundly marked by two categories of art objects: wooden masks and figurative sculpture. In 1926 Paul Guillaume and Thomas Munro in Primitive Negro Sculpture went so far as to present a map of 'The Country of Negro Art' that drew a closed line around the regions of West and Central Africa and effectively limited African art to the mask and figurative art traditions that characterize these regions. Truly, however, the importance of figurative art to an understanding of African art history cannot be overestimated. ...


African American architecture  

Amber N. Wiley

[Afro-American architectureBlack architecture]

Term used to describe the built environment as shaped by members of the African diaspora in the United States. This includes enslaved and free people, from the first European colonial settlements to the present day. This entry is geographically specific to the margins of the USA, with attention paid to the connections between West and Central Africa, the Americas, and Europe due to the transatlantic slave trade.

Enslaved Africans carried their building knowledge with them to lands colonized by Europeans. Given the tropical nature of the Caribbean and American South, enslaved peoples used their localized material knowledge—incorporating tabby, palmetto leaves, wattle and daub, and rammed earth (pisé)—to create shelter suited for the climate and environment. Both colonizers and enslaved peoples adapted these building traditions to their new homes.

Highly skilled artisans and craftsmen, both free and enslaved, worked on buildings of all kinds in the antebellum period. In his 1912...


Alberti, Leon Battista  

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....



Martha C. Nussbaum

(b Stagira, 384 bc; d Khalkis, 322 bc). Ancient Greek philosopher. Born to a physician at the Macedonian court, Aristotle travelled to Athens in his 18th year to study philosophy at Plato’s Academy. He remained for nearly twenty years until Plato’s death in 348 bc; he was then forced to leave Athens: probably he had come under suspicion because of his Macedonian connections. He went first to Assos, then to Mytilene, doing the original biological research on which his later scientific writings are based. During this period, he spent some time as tutor to the young Alexander the Great (reg 336–323 bc); the relationship does not seem to have been a warm one. Returning to Athens in 335 bc, he set up his own philosophical school, later called the Lyceum. From the colonnaded path, or peripatos, attached to the building, his followers were later called ‘Peripatetics’. Here he taught, and wrote most of his surviving works. After Alexander’s death in ...


Arnheim, Rudolf  

Anneke E. Wijnbeek

(b Berlin, July 15, 1904; d Ann Arbor, MI, June 9, 2007)

American psychologist and writer of German birth. He studied with Gestalt psychologists at the University of Berlin in the 1920s. His secondary studies in art history and musicology, together with Gestalt psychology, were the basis for his subsequent research into the mechanisms of perception. During the 1930s he studied film, finding in the silent film’s unadorned method of reproduction an artistic interpretation of perceptible reality. He wrote film reviews and published the book Film als Kunst (Berlin, 1932). In 1940, he settled in the USA, where he taught psychology and the psychology of art at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY; in 1968 he was appointed professor at the Harvard University Carpenter Center of Visual Arts, Cambridge, MA.

Arnheim was responsible for the revision of the prevailing opinion that perception was a primary, physiological function and thought a secondary, interpretative one; he did this by discovering an inseparable mutual interaction between perception and thought. Arnheim considered pictorial art the highest expression of visual thought, or thought in images, and, using Picasso’s sketches for ...


Art brut  

Roger Cardinal

[Fr.: ‘raw art’]. Term used from the mid-1940s to designate a type of art outside the fine art tradition. The commonest English-language equivalent for art brut is ‘Outsider art’. In North America, the same phenomenon tends to attract the label ‘Grass-roots art’. The French term was coined by Jean Dubuffet, who posited an inventive, non-conformist art that should be perfectly brut, unprocessed and spontaneous, and emphatically distinct from what he saw as the derivative stereotypes of official culture (see Cow with the Subtile Nose, 1954). In July 1945 Dubuffet initiated his searches for art brut, attracted particularly by the drawings of mental patients that he saw in Switzerland. In 1948 the non-profit-making Compagnie de l’Art Brut was founded, among whose partners were André Breton and the art critic Michel Tapié. The Collection de l’Art Brut was supported for a while by the company but was essentially a personal hobby horse of Dubuffet and remained for three decades an almost entirely private concern, inviting public attention only at exhibitions in ...


Art history  

Wayne R. Dynes and Gérard Mermoz

Knowledge or study of the visual arts within a historical framework, the nature and breadth of which have been the subject of much discussion. Although earlier accounts of art and of aesthetics had suggested or implied the appropriateness and possibility of tracing patterns of historical development within the visual arts, it was perhaps only in the 19th century that a concerted attempt was made to give art history a philosophical basis. As art history subsequently became increasingly linked to and rooted in academic and educational institutions, it was accompanied by a shift in the status of the art historian, who came to be seen as the exponent of an increasingly sophisticated and specialized professional practice. Partly as a result of this increased specialization, and partly as a result of cross-fertilization with other disciplines, at the end of the 20th century art history in the Western world was characterized by a pluralism of approaches and by an acceptance of this pluralism as a corrective to what some perceived as a misguided earlier attempt to give a single comprehensive and universal account of art. This article therefore examines art history from three viewpoints: first, through a brief account of the development of art history as an intellectual discipline; second, through an account of art history as a modern institutional practice, mostly within the Western world; and third, through an analysis of some recent areas of contention within the discipline. It should be stressed that the analysis of issues must be seen as only one possible critique of art history. It should also be noted that art history generally flourishes in advanced industrial societies, counting as a luxury in the less industrially developed nations. Some developing countries, such as ...


Art market  

Bruce Tattersall

revised by Natasha Degen

The arena in which a buyer seeks to acquire, either directly or through an agent, a particular work of art for reasons of aesthetics, connoisseurship, investment, or speculation. The historical beginnings of the art market lie in patronage. With the growth of Collecting for aesthetic and worldly motives rather than religious ones came a corresponding growth in dealing, with the dealer acting as middleman as the number of artists and collectors increased and spread geographically. The dealer, often an artist, discovered and promoted other artists and persuaded collectors to buy at a price determined by him. His role was strengthened by the 16th-century distinction between artist and artisan and the concept of a Masterpiece. This precept, allied to a growing antiquarian interest, reinforced the position of the dealer as arbiter of taste, and his status was further enhanced as great collections were amassed and disposed of in the 16th and 17th centuries. During this period collecting became popular with the middle classes and the art market expanded accordingly; the sale of art by ...



Thierry Lenain

The concept that a thing (person, object, type of behaviour, etc.) is what it seems, or is said, or believed to be. Implicit in the very notion of authenticity is the possibility of misrepresentation. In essence, to be authentic is to be the opposite of fake or phony. Authenticity is judged by performing tests to verify that external appearance and substantial reality actually match. An artwork can be deemed ‘authentic’ as a work of art (as opposed to a mere product without artistic value); as the product of a particular artist (a Monet, rather than a work by another artist in his style); as an artefact of a specific time (a 14th-century sculpture, as opposed to a Gothic Revival imitation); or as an object composed of a particular material (a bronze sculpture, versus one made of plaster with a bronze-like patina).

Each judgement of authenticity is based on a different set of criteria. To conclude that someone is authentic as a person is to say that his or her way of behaving is in accordance with their inner self, personal values, social background, and life choices; this is a moral judgement that cannot be reduced to assessing the presence or absence of objective features. Similarly, pronouncing an object a genuine artwork denotes that it is the result of real artistic talent and sincere commitment. This assessment relies on an element of subjectivity and is always dependent on a specific cultural context that will define which class of objects can be elevated to the status of art. It also carries moral overtones as it amounts to a declaration of whether the object in question was made by a true artist acting as such, that is, by someone faithful to the essential and somehow transcendent demands of art....


Bachelard, Gaston  

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....



Gauvin Bailey and Jillian Lanthier

Term used to describe one of the first genuinely global styles of art and architecture in the Western canon, extending from its birthplace in Bologna and Rome to places as far-flung as France, Sweden, Russia, Latin America, colonial Asia (Goa, Macao), and Africa (Mozambique, Angola), even manifesting itself in hybrid forms in non-European cultures such as Qing China (the Yuanming yuan pleasure gardens of the Qianlong Emperor) or Ottoman Turkey (in a style often called Türk Barok). The Baroque also embraced a very wide variety of art forms, from the more traditional art historical media of painting, sculpture, and architecture to public spectacles, fireworks, gardens, and objects of everyday use, often combining multiple media into a single object or space in a way that blurred traditional disciplinary boundaries. More so than the Renaissance and Mannerist stylistic movements which preceded it, Baroque was a style of the people as well as one of élites, and scholars are only recently beginning to explore the rich material culture of the Baroque, from chapbooks (Italy) and votive paintings (central Europe and Latin America) to farm furniture (Sweden) and portable oratories (Brazil). Although its precise chronological boundaries will probably always be a matter of dispute, the Baroque era roughly covers the period from the 1580s to the early 18th century when, in places such as France and Portugal, the ...


Barthes, Roland  

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 ...


Baudelaire, Charles(-Pierre)  

Nicole Savy

(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....