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date: 19 September 2019

The art historical canon and the marketlocked

  • Joseph R. Givens

Extract

The origins of the term and concept of the “canon” can be traced to antiquity when the Greek word for “measuring stick,” or kanon, originated, but the meaning and connotations of the term canon has changed over the course of the history of art. In this context, the canon is a flexible construct used to identify exceptional artworks, selected by authority, against which all other artworks were to be judged. The idea became a central focus of western artistic production during the 18th and 19th centuries, when academic institutions, the center of power and influence in the art world, used rigid and hierarchical models to develop an “academic style” which valued, in form, a stoic realism and, in content, neoclassical themes. With the introduction of the avant-garde and modernism in the 20th century, the field of art became a more open system with artists and galleries challenging canonical norms. However, academic institutions maintained their defense of the art historical canon until the late 1950s....

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