Enfilade

Oxford Art Journal, August 2016

Posted in journal articles by Editor on September 22, 2016

In the latest issue of the Oxford Art Journal:

Oxford Art Journal 39 (August 2016)

2-cover• Introduction | Katie Scott, David Bindman, and Tom Gretton, “Helen Weston ‘in three positions’”

• Denis Diderot, “Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown,” translated by Kate Tunstall and Katie Scott

• Katie Scott, “The Philosopher’s Room: Diderot’s Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown

Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown recounts the story of Diderot’s internal struggles with affluence and comfort and his attempt to reconcile luxury with the philosopher’s life. This article analyses some of the ways he sought to do this is by attending closely to Regrets’ spatial and material forms. Not things, but relations to things, the article argues, characterised Diderot’s ethics of consumption. It further suggests that the politics of luxury was for Diderot linked to questions not only of property but also of access and that the ancient virtue of hospitality was crucial to his defence of his new ‘revered’ dressing gown and all that it connoted.

• Valerie Mainz, “The Inequalities of Infamy”

The contribution has for focus the etching by Isaak Cruikshank, entitled The Martyr of Equality: Behold the Progress of our System. The critical analysis of the satire conjoins the figurative forms of the visual imagery with its words investigating, in the process, several of the interdependent layers of meaning that can be imputed therefrom. Produced in the days after the execution of the French king Louis XVI, which had taken place on 21 January 1793, this satirical view of the beheading of the monarch shows off the mechanism of the guillotine as a bloody, equalising, killing machine. The central figure of Philippe Égalité, the king’s distant cousin who had voted for the death of the king, is in the guise of the executioner here, but he, too, would be sent to the guillotine on 6 November of the same year.

• David Bindman, “Lost Surfaces: Canova and Colour”

The unremitting whiteness of Canova’s sculptures makes the question of colour seem an odd one to raise in connection with his art, but in fact almost all of them were originally coated or tinted to give a mellowness and a certain realism to the surface of the marble. This raised fundamental questions to do with sculpture’s relationship to painting and to ancient Greece and made the sculptor a controversial figure. He was evidently influenced by his friend and biographer the French theorist Quatremère de Quincy, who published in 1814 a pioneering book demonstrating the use of colour on ancient Greek sculptures.

• Richard Taws, “Conté’s Machines: Drawing, Atmosphere, Erasure”

This article examines the graphic practice of Nicolas-Jacques Conté, an artist, chemist, engineer, and balloonist probably best known for his invention, in 1795, of the modern pencil, synthesising English ‘lead’ rendered unavailable by the naval blockade. Conté, a former pupil of Jean-Baptiste Greuze, subsequently became a key member of the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt. He participated in the production of its most extensive visual document, the monumental Description de l’Égypte, devising an ‘engraving machine’ that facilitated the production of uniform backgrounds for the Description’s plates. With this machine, the cloudless Egyptian skies that populated the large sheets of the Description could be reproduced at speed with minimal opportunity for artistic error, reducing complex atmospheric effects to a simple mechanical process. Tracing the reemergence of Conté’s numerous inventions in subsequent accounts of media change, particularly those that focused on photography, this article examines the ways in which Conté’s work often pivoted on the question of drawing and suggests that his practice asks broader questions of the relationship between technology, vision, and imperialism in the nineteenth century.

• Richard Wrigley, “Unreliable Witness: The Flâneur as Artist and Spectator of Art in Nineteenth-Century Paris”

One of the main reasons for the flâneur’s celebrity in studies of nineteenth-century Paris has been a connection with art and artists. The flâneur has been championed as a model for artists who depict the modern, urban world; this has been allied to assumptions that the flâneur embodies a process of aestheticisation which corresponds to capturing the essence of modernity (and thereby modern art). This article reconsiders such orthodoxy and suggests that a more historicised account of the figure’s origins and meaning. The canonical texts habitually called on to illustrate accounts of the flâneur’s identity (Le Physiologie du flaneur, Baudelaire’s ‘Le Peintre de la vie moderne’ etc.) are reconsidered critically. The article concludes by arguing that a more solidly based history of the flâneur should, firstly, reach back into the early nineteenth century, and secondly, also acknowledge the political character of such independent scrutiny of contemporary Paris, it spaces and social landscape.

• Tom Gretton, “ ‘Un Moyen Puissant de Vulgarisation Artistique’. Reproducing Salon Pictures in Parisian Illustrated Weekly Magazines c. 1860–1895: From Wood Engraving to the Half Tone Screen (and Back)”

L’Illustration and Le Monde illustré, Parisian up-market general-interest weekly illustrated magazines of the Illustrated London News genre published long Salon reviews every year there was a Salon. They also reproduced numbers of Salon pictures each year, in fluctuating (often very large) numbers, in a range of reproductive technologies, and accompanied by textual and presentational clues about what sorts of value the magazine was inviting its reader/viewers to attach to the reproduction: to the painting represented also but in the first instance to the reproduction.

Engaging with recent work by Stephen Bann, this article discusses the ways in which, in these magazines, reproductive wood engravings were aligned with the great tradition of French reproductive intaglio printmaking, and it looks at the impact of the introduction of photomechanical technologies (the line block and the half-tone screen) on the values that were attached to these pictures of Salon pictures. It demonstrates the persistence into the 1890s of the value system of reproductive engraving, and its eventual displacement by the more mechanical efficiencies of the half-tone screened photograph of a work of art. The essay calibrates this displacement with the increasingly compelling demands of the news cycle in relation to the visual reporting of the Salon, and it provides evidence that the half-tone screen, for a decade after its introduction, was a less-than-adequate technology for the reproduction of photographs of works of art, as the evidence of its uptake in the more technologically progressive of these two titles, L’Illustration, demonstrates.

The essay also engages with the debate over “the end of the Salon” (Mainardi). From the evidence of the resources that these magazines devoted not only to writing about but also to reproducing pictures from, the Salon through from the 1860s to the end of the 1890s, the essay argues that, at last for the national-bourgeois audience that was constituted by the wide readership of these two magazines, reports of the Salon’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

• Satish Padiyar, “Proust and Old Time: On ‘Chardin’ and ‘Watteau’”

Before Marcel Proust began working on his masterpiece À la Recherche du temps perdu, he had an idea to be an art critic. His youthful essay “Chardin” (1895) constitutes his first important piece of art criticism. Approaching Chardin’s work ‘philosophically’, Proust’s essay draws from the old painter’s work significant ideas about the affective life of objects, the pathos of interiors and interiority, and the shattering of the frame separating museum art from modern life. My essay argues that Chardin’s painting offered young Proust a significant new ‘way’ to begin to approach the ‘involuntary memory’ of Recherche, one that he delineates through his essay’s quasi-Platonic structure. Proust’s later incomplete essay on Watteau shifts his art writing into a more subjective mode; the early ‘art’ Proust becoming before our eyes the later genre-abolishing one.

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