Editorial | Digital Textbooks / Thomas Buser’s History of Drawing

Posted in books, resources by Editor on January 31, 2015


Jacques-Louis David, The Intervention of the Sabine Women, 1794. Black chalk, pen and black ink, gray wash with white heightening on two sheets and five fragments of paper pasted together, 25.7 x 34 cm (Paris: Louvre; photo: T. Le Mage).
Click here for more information.

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As someone regularly faced with assigning new editions of textbooks that seem increasingly overpriced, I wonder how long it will be until resources such as the basic art history survey text are available digitally for free. Yes, these are choppy waters—pedagogically, methodologically, ideologically, and as business practice—further complicated by recent legislation, primarily from California: SB48 signed into law in 2010 along with SB 1052 and SB 10532 signed in 2012. But I think the stakes are high in our getting this right.

Thomas Buser’s History of Drawing, which surveys Western drawing from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, seems worth noting to me as an early example of what we might see more of in the coming years. I imagine most instructors would assign pieces in conjunction with other materials, but the price (free) facilitates such flexibility. If students in a studio drawing course are introduced to eighteenth-century artists they otherwise wouldn’t know about, that seems useful to me. In the context of a survey, I can imagine building one or two individual class sessions around the topic of drawing with this as a starting point for students. While there aren’t notes—an all too common and unfortunate characteristic of the textbook genre that could be rectified in the digital realm—there is a reasonably extensive bibliography, excluding (at least presently) the twentieth century.

With permissions an ever moving target, we’ve made huge strides during the last decade toward more open policies. Buser has adopted an approach that likely wouldn’t work with publishers (or profits) involved, but again this strikes me as a gain. If the image selection is admirable, in most cases the image quality is not. On the other hand, Buser’s text is also a work in progress, one of the biggest advantages of this new format.

I don’t usually voice opinions too loudly here (I try not to voice many opinions even softly and I’m certainly not speaking on behalf of HECAA), but here’s my concern: if art history—and I have in mind a discipline much larger than the eighteenth century—doesn’t move toward more affordable digital options, we will be further marginalized, characterized as an intellectual luxury, available only to a small, elite segment of higher education. At least at its best, the museum as an institution is premised on public access; it’s time we find some way to extend this vision to introductory art history texts.

Craig Hanson

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From Busser’s History of Drawing:

History of Drawing is a textbook and reference book available free to anyone who loves drawings. . . .Thomas Buser earned his doctorate in Art History from NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts in 1974. He taught courses in Baroque Art and the course History of Prints and Drawings at the University of Louisville until his retirement in 2005. He has published Religious Art in the Nineteenth Century in Europe and America (two volumes, 2002) and the textbook Experiencing Art Around Us (second edition, 2006).


The Art Bulletin, December 2014

Posted in journal articles, reviews by Editor on January 31, 2015

The eighteenth century in The Art Bulletin:

The Art Bulletin 96 (December 2014)


• Cheng-hua Wang, “Whither Art History? A Global Perspective on Eighteenth-Century Chinese Art and Visual Culture,” pp. 379–94.


The Chang Gate (left), 1734, and Three Hundred and Sixty Trades (right), woodblock prints produced in Suzhou, ink and colors on paper; each is 43 x 22 inches (Hiroshima: Umi-Mori Art Museum)

Here, I endeavor to engage the global turn by exploring the connectedness of the world in art that drew China and Europe together in the eighteenth century. My main purpose is to highlight the new scholarship on the art and visual culture of the High Qing dynasty (ca. 1680s–1795). These recent studies reveal that the extent to which the globalized situation was engaged in the art production of the High Qing court and local societies far exceeds previous expectations. Notwithstanding the revered legacy of traditional research on Sino-European artistic interactions of the early modern period, it did not pay much attention to the multiple routes, channels, and contact zones within a global context, nor did it make in-depth explorations into the agency of the Qing emperors, painters, printmakers, and consumers on the issue of how Qing art adopted European styles. Consequently, these new lines of thought have, on the one hand, increased the importance of the comparatively marginal subfield of early modern Sino-European artistic interactions in the studies of Chinese art and, on the other, generated a major revision—not merely a fine-tuning—of the dominant narrative of High Qing art and visual culture (379) . . .

• Nóra Veszprémi, “The Emptiness behind the Mask: The Second Rococo in Painting in Austria and Hungary,” pp. 441–62.


József Borsos, The Morning after the Masquerade (Girls after the Ball) 1850 (Budapest, Hungarian National Gallery)

At the time of its revival in mid-nineteenth-century Austria, the Rococo style was suffused with often contradictory meanings. Regarded as both outdated and fashionable, Austrian and French, simple and pompous, superficial and full of spiritual value, it prompted musings on time, history, and national identity. Closely connected to both the decorative arts and the imagery of popular prints, paintings of the Rococo revival often evoked contemporary concerns about the commodification of art in the industrialized modern world. The ambiguous responses engendered by the Rococo gained special significance in the context of the political tension between Austria and Hungary.


• Rebecca Zorach, Review of Andrea Feeser, Maureen Daly Goggin, and Beth Fowkes Tobin, eds., The Materiality of Color: The Production, Circulation, and Application of Dyes and Pigments, 1400–1800 (Ashgate, 2012); and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, ed., Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), pp. 489–91.

• Brian Kane, Review of Whitney Davis, A General Theory of Visual Culture (Princeton University Press, 2011), pp. 491–93.

Call for Papers | Artistic Correspondences: Rome and Europe, 1700–1900

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on January 31, 2015

From H-ArtHist:

Artistic Correspondences: Rome and Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Rome, 15–16 June 2015

Proposals due by 1 March 2015

Epistolary correspondence among artists is a privileged source to unravel the dynamics of intellectual exchange across regional and national boundaries, as it requires a research agenda necessarily focused on ‘mobility’, and a transnational approach and methodology avoiding the rhetorical pitfalls of past European historiography. By focusing on the cosmopolitan context of 18th- and 19th-century Rome as a paradigmatic field of enquiry, the research network Artistic Correspondences: Rome and Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries aims to recast epistolary exchanges among artists as an inescapable source of information on the transnational circulation of a shared stock of artworks, people, books, models, technical and critical skills across Europe. The organizing research team would like to meet other academics and research groups working on the same topic in order to explore new opportunities of collaboration at a European level.

The workshop to be held in Rome, 15–16 June 2015, is intended to explore new forms of research collaboration and dissemination of sources (e.g. networks, databases, digital repositories, etc.). The ultimate goal of the workshop is to initiate a debate leading to the construction of a digital platform of artists’ correspondences in the modern era. The workshop endorses a synchronic and diachronic approach to the study of artistic correspondences that will enable the mapping of geographical trajectories and cultural exchanges. We particularly welcome proposals illustrating the role of artists’ letters as a tool to study the history and historiography of collections from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective; as a source offering new clues on the education and professional training of artists and their self promotion (e.g., the links between artists and institutions, artists and patrons, artists and intellectuals, etc.); as a document to trace the circulation of ideas and practices, rather than for sketching individual biographies (with a focus, therefore, on itineraries, geographies, social exchange, etc.); as a material providing insight on technical and specific terminology (e.g. words of practice, description of works of art, etc.).

Abstracts (maximum 200 words) for 25-minute papers should be submitted to Serenella Rolfi (serenella.rolfi@uniroma3.it) before 1 March 2015. We intend to provide travel allowance and/or accommodation for speakers with accepted papers.

Conference Committee: Serenella Rolfi (Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Università di Roma TRE), Giovanna Capitelli (Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Università della Calabria), Susanne Adina Meyer (Dipartimento di Scienze della formazione, dei beni culturali e del turismo, Università di Macerata), Ilaria Miarelli Mariani (Dipartimento di Lettere, Arti e Scienze Sociali, Università di Chieti), Christoph Frank and Carla Mazzarelli (Istituto di Storia e Teoria dell’arte e dell’architettura, Università della Svizzera Italiana), Maria Pia Donato (CNRS Institut d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine). With the cooperation of KNIR, Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome and of the Svenska Institutet i Rom.