New Book | Messerschmidt’s Character Heads

Posted in books by Editor on October 2, 2017

Now available from Routledge:

Michael Yonan, Messerschmidt’s Character Heads: Maddening Sculpture and the Writing of Art History (New York: Routledge, 2018), 194 pages, ISBN: 978 113821 3432 (hardcover), $150 / ISBN: 978  131544  8404 (ebook), $55.

This book examines a famous series of sculptures by the German artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736–1783) known as his ‘Character Heads’. These are busts of human heads, highly unconventional for their time, representing strange, often inexplicable facial expressions. Scholars have struggled to explain these works of art. Some have said that Messerschmidt was insane, while others suggested that he tried to illustrate some sort of intellectual system. Michael Yonan argues that these sculptures are simultaneously explorations of art’s power and also critiques of the aesthetic limits that would be placed on that power.

Michael Yonan is associate professor of art history at the University of Missouri–Columbia. He is a specialist in eighteenth-century European art and material culture.


List of Figures


I  Writing the Artist’s Mind
Introduction to Part I
1  Nicolai’s Dreamer
2  Kris’s Psychotic

II  Writing the Artist’s Context
Introduction to Part II
3  Mesmer’s Acolyte
4  Lichtenberg’s Ally

III  Writing the Artist’s Project
Introduction to Part III
5  The Game of Making
6  The Envy of the Gods








Workshop | Diderot and 18th-Century Human Simulacra

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on October 2, 2017

From H-ArtHist:

Diderot and 18th-Century Human Simulacra
Freie Universität Berlin, 5 October 2017

Registration due by 3 October 2017

The workshop aims to explore the different aesthetical and anthropological dimensions of the ‘mannequin’ metaphor in Diderot’s “Paradoxe sur le comédien,” which Diderot introduces as a model for actors/actresses at the very beginning of his acting theory. Central questions of the workshop include, but are not limited to, the following: Why does Diderot use a tool for visual artists to exemplify his idea of the ideal actor/actress? What is the specificity of the mannequin compared to other types of human simulacra such as the statue, the marionette, and the automat?

In order to analyse this specific metaphor and to explore possible answers to these questions, the workshop will approach the subject from two angles. The first approach consists of a comparative analysis between the mannequin’s function as an art tool for painters or sculptors and Diderot’s conception of the ideal actor/actress. Such an analysis implies a comparison between Diderot’s theoretical works on theatre and his theoretical writings on visual art, as for example his ‘Salons’. The second approach consists of a historical contextualisation of Diderot’s concept of the human body in the broader philosophical and scientific discourse of his time.

The workshop will focus on the mannequin’s specificity while comparing it to other human simulacra of that time, such as Jacques de Vaucanson’s famous automata or the moving statue of Condillac’s “Traité des sensations.” The workshop will also discuss other forms of simulacra present in Diderot’s works, as they appear for instance in the Encyclopédie.

The workshop will be held in French and English. Please register via email by October 3rd: marie.igelmann@fu-berlin.de. Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Grunewaldstr. 35, 12165 Berlin-Steglitz, Room 103. The workshop is organised by Marie-Irène Igelmann (Freie Universität Berlin) in the context of the Dahlem Junior Host Program of the Dahlem Humanities Center.


9.45  Opening and Introduction

10.00  L’automate chez Diderot: le vivant et le mécanique (Aurélia Gaillard, Université Bordeaux Montaigne)

11.00  Coffee break

11.15  L’esthétique de la singularité: abstraction et figuration du personnage chez Condillac et Diderot (Manuel Mühlbacher, LMU München)

12.00  Aesthetic and Scientific Concepts of 18th-Century Mannequins (Marie-Irène Igelmann, Freie Universität Berlin)

12.45  Lunch break

15.00  The Encyclopédie, Similarity, and the Simulacrum (Thari Jungen, Graduate School “Performing Citizenship,” Hamburg)

15.45  The Notion of Genius in Diderot’s ‘Salon de 1767’ (Christian Hartwig Steinau, Freie Universität Berlin/LMU München)

16.30  Coffee break

16.45  Concluding Discussion


Cleveland Acquires Wright’s Portrait of Charles Heathcote

Posted in museums by Editor on October 2, 2017

From the museum’s press release (27 September 2017). . .

Joseph Wright of Derby, Portrait of Colonel Charles Heathcote, ca. 1771–72; oil on canvas, 50 × 40 inches (The Cleveland Museum of Art).

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s recent acquisitions include a portrait of Colonel Charles Heathcote by British artist Joseph Wright of Derby; a drawing by German Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka; a 14th-century Japanese hanging scroll featuring the Buddhist deity Aizen Myōō, Wisdom King of Passion; and a monumental oil painting on canvas by contemporary Chinese artist Liu Wei.

Often described as among the artist’s most successful and appealing portraits, Joseph Wright of Derby’s Portrait of Colonel Charles Heathcote is one of a limited group of small-scale likenesses made in the early 1770s, depicting the figures at full length in a landscape setting. The subject, Charles Heathcote, of Derby, joined the army in 1745 at the age of 15 and rose through the ranks. At the time of his retirement in 1772, Heathcote was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 35th Foot (Royal Sussex).

The figure is painted in a relatively soft and smooth technique: facial features are carefully characterized and minute attention paid to rendering details of costume. However, the landscape is painted in a more energetic, almost impressionistic, technique. Indeed, Wright gave the landscape as much personality and presence as he did Heathcote himself. The group of small-scale portraits to which the Portrait of Colonel Charles Heathcote belongs mark the beginnings of Wright’s interest in landscape painting.

This innovative approach to combining figure and landscape was not particularly well received by critics at the time, who were more accustomed to portraits entirely dominated by a figure alone. When viewed close up, the variance in technique can seem jarring, but when viewed from the intended few steps away, Wright’s radical approach results in a compelling image of an elegant figure in verdant natural surroundings. Wright painted the landscape in bold, broad brushstrokes that call attention to artistic process in a way that seems dazzlingly modern for a painting executed in 1771–72.

Joseph Wright’s Portrait of Colonel Charles Heathcote makes a striking addition to the museum’s display of eighteenth-century British art. It complements and offers a counterpoint to the full-length, life-sized Grand Manner portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, and Joshua Reynolds in the collection. . .

The full press release is available here»




Exhibition | Chaekgeori: Korean Painted Screens

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 2, 2017

In terms of objects, it is a nineteenth-century exhibition, but this fascinating genre dates to the late eighteenth century. From SUNY Press:

Chaekgeori: Pleasure of Possessions in Korean Painted Screens
Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook University, 29 September — 23 December 2016
Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, 15 April — 11 June 2017
The Cleveland Museum of Art, 5 August — 5 November 2017

Chaekgeori explores the genre of Korean still-life painting known as chaekgeori (loosely translated as ‘books and things’). Encouraged and popularized by King Jeongjo (1752–1800, r. 1776–1800) as a political tool to promote societal conservatism against an influx of ideas from abroad, chaekgeori was one of the most enduring and prolific art forms of Korea’s Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). It depicts books and other material commodities as symbolic embodiments of knowledge, power, and social reform.

Chaekgeori has maintained its popularity in Korea for more than two centuries, and remains a force in Korean art to this day. No other genre or medium in the entirety of Korean art, including both court and folk paintings, has so engaged and documented the image of books and collectable commodities and their place in an ever-evolving Korean society. When it transitioned into folk-style painting, unexpected and creative visual elements emerged. Folk versions of chaekgeori from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often show an exquisite fusion of Korean and Western composition that feels modern to our contemporary eyes. Not only books but many other commodities are depicted to represent the commoner’s desire for higher social status, wealth, and knowledge.

The first large-scale traveling exhibition of its kind to be published, The Power and Pleasure of Possessions in Korean Painted Screens is made possible by generous grants from the Korea Foundation and the Gallery Hyundai.

Byungmo Chung and Sunglim Kim, eds., Chaekgeori: The Power and Pleasure of Possessions in Korean Painted Screens (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2017), 250 pages, ISBN: 978 14384 68112, $60.

Byungmo Chung is Professor in the Department of Cultural Assets at Gyeongju University, Korea. He was a visiting scholar in the Department of Asian Cultures and Languages at Rutgers University and President of the Korean Folk Painting Society. His scholarship focuses on the genre paintings and Minhwa—the folk painting of Korea. He has organized several Minhwa exhibitions in Korea and written numerous articles and books about Korean folk and genre paintings, including Chaesaekhwa: Polychrome Paintings of Korea.

Sunglim Kim is Assistant Professor of Korean Art History in the Department of Art History and the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Program, Dartmouth College. Her scholarship focuses on premodern and early twentieth-century Korean art and culture, including the rise of consumer culture and the role of professional nouveau riche in late Joseon Korea, Japanese colonial photographs of Korea, and Korean women artists. She has curated several exhibitions in the United States and written numerous publications on Korean art.






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