Exhibition | Canova: Sketching in Clay

Posted in anniversaries, exhibitions by Editor on October 13, 2022

Antonio Canova, Adam and Eve Mourning the Dead Abel, detail of Eve and Abel, ca. 1818–22, terracotta
(Possagno: Museo Gypsotheca Antonio Canova; photograph by Tony Sigel)

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Antonio Canova, at age 64, died on this day (13 October) 200 years ago; his clay models are the subject of a major exhibition opening in June. From the NGA:

Canova: Sketching in Clay
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 11 June — 9 October 2023
Art Institute of Chicago, 19 November 2023 — 18 March 2024

Curated by C. D. Dickerson and Emerson Bowyer

How does a sculptor turn an initial idea into a finished work of marble? For Antonio Canova (1757–1822), the most famous artist of Europe’s revolutionary period, the answer was with clay. Working with his hands and small tools, Canova produced dazzling sketch models in clay, which helped him plan his designs for his large statues in marble. Imprinted with the fire of his imagination, these sketches were boldly executed in mere minutes. Canova also made more finished models, sensuous in their details, that he showed to patrons or used as guides for carving. Approximately 40 of the some 60 of his surviving models reveal the artist’s extraordinary working process—a process that led to the creation of some of the most iconic works in the history of sculpture.

Canova: Sketching in Clay is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington and The Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition is curated by C. D. Dickerson, curator and head of sculpture and decorative arts, National Gallery of Art, and Emerson Bowyer, Searle Curator, Painting and Sculpture of Europe, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Call for Papers | Evoking the Incommensurable: Painting the Sublime

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 13, 2022

From ArtHist.net:

Evoking the Incommensurable — Painting the Sublime
Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, 26–28 July 2023

Organized by Johannes Grave, Sonja Scherbaum, and Arno Schubbach

Proposals due by 15 December 2022

In the 18th century, the concept of the sublime constitutes a genuine novelty and a driving force for advancements in philosophy, theoretical reflection on the arts, and painterly practice. From its beginnings, this novelty was not limited to one country alone, but covered the whole of Europe. A first step was Nicolas Boileau’s French translation of Pseudo-Longinus’ Traité sur le sublime in 1674. Further decisive steps were Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful from 1757 and Immanuel Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment from 1790. Thus, a discourse concerning the sublime could develop that extended across European languages and traditions, a discourse which, at least at first glance, is characterized much more strongly by its diversity than by a common conceptual basis or homogeneous philosophical framework.

Moreover, the sublime was not merely the subject of philosophical discourse; it was also embraced by the theoretical reflection on the arts, such as literature and painting. In this context, the sublime constitutes a challenge not only due to the fact that Burke and Kant distinguished it sharply from the beautiful, i.e., the traditional organizing subject of treatises on painting and literature. The sublime also raises questions because, according to Burke and Kant, the sublime breaks with classical standards of pictorial or literary representation; its excessive strain on the senses, its incommensurability with any measure, and its irreducibility to any bounded shape serve as a harsh contrast to the beautiful and the aesthetic values associated therewith. The attempt to incorporate this concept into aesthetic reflection not only gave rise to tensions but also offered an opportunity to establish new approaches. It is therefore no coincidence that the concept of the sublime was readily taken up by treatises on landscape painting in order to foster this newly reappraised pictorial genre.

Finally, the sublime was also a challenge to artistic practice. Theoretical discourse concerning the sublime often referred much more directly to our experience of nature than to our experience of artistic works. Particularly in the case of Kant, it was not evident that the arts are at all able to evoke anything sublime. Furthermore, the specific characteristics of the sublime do not make it seem to be a suitable subject for painting. It was by no means evident that it would be possible to represent the boundless greatness of sublime nature within the limited frame of a picture. Nevertheless, various attempts to paint the sublime can be seen in the genre of landscape painting and its many European varieties. And there are good reasons to assume that such attempts can also be found in other genres, whether in figurative representations, in ruin paintings and architectural representations, or even in book illustrations. The sublime challenged artists to push the limits of painting and to explore its capabilities anew. To evoke the incommensurable and paint the sublime requires, we would suggest, purposefully exploring and exploiting these capabilities in relation to the reception of the painting and, above all, the limits of the viewer’s perceptual capacities.

The international conference Evoking the Incommensurable — Painting the Sublime thus discusses the conception of the sublime as an innovative force on a Europe-wide scale, both in respect to the formation of the aesthetic discourses pertaining to it and in reference to the practice of painting and its exploration of the capability of pictures to evoke the incommensurable in their reception. The conference will be held in English. Conference presentations should be 30 minutes long. We will reimburse travel and accommodation costs.

We warmly welcome papers from doctoral, postdoctoral, and senior scholars. Please submit your abstract (250 words) along with a short biography, in English, to paintingthesublime@uni-jena.de by 15 December 2022. Speakers will be notified by 31 January 2023.

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