How To Talk About Art History

It's easier than it seems.

Tag: Canon

Why is “Tim’s Vermeer” so Controversial?

A photograph of a man sitting in a room styled in a 17th century Dutch manner. He sits on top of a black and white tiled floor. Next to him is a table covered with a luxurious carpet and a white jug, and an upholstered chair with a cello on the floor next to it. At the back of the room there is an ornate harpsichord with two mannequins next to it. A female mannequin is wearing a yellow dress and sitting by the harpsichord with her back to the viewer. A male mannequin is wearing a black outfit and standing next to her.

Screenshot from Tim’s Vermeer. Tim Jenison sits in his recreation of the room in Vermeer’s The music lesson.

“What do you think about the theory that Vermeer used an elaborate technique involving mirrors when he painted (as proposed in the movie Tim’s Vermeer)?” – asked by Michael

Note: This post will contain spoilers for the movie Tim’s Vermeer.

The documentary film Tim’s Vermeer follows inventor Tim Jenison on his quest to recreate a Vermeer painting using a system of mirrors. The film argues that Vermeer could have used this method when creating his artworks. It also – whether on purpose or not – opens up some interesting art historical debates regarding the concept of “artistic genius” and the separation of art and technology.

I had never seen this movie when I received this question, so for those of you in my situation, here’s a short description: Tim’s Vermeer is a 2013 American documentary film about inventor Tim Jenison’s experiments with duplicating Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s paintings. His experiments were based on the idea that Vermeer created his artworks with the help of mirrors. Jenison eventually succeeds in figuring out a technique that allows him to perfectly paint a scene in front of him despite having no artistic training. He thus reconstructs and paints the scene depicted in Vermeer’s The music lesson (1662 – 1665).

Read More

Site Update: “Art + Feminism” Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

art+feminism

Tonight, I co-hosted the Bangkok edition of the global ‘Art + Feminism’ Wikipedia campaign.

Nine people total came together in a Bangkok café to learn about Wikipedia, to find out about art and to add/edit/translate articles about woman-identified artists to improve coverage of women-identified artists across the world. At the end of the night, these were our accomplishments:

– Creation of article about Chinese artist Xiao Lu.
– Creation of article about Bengali artist Pratima Devi.
– Translation of article about Indigenous Australian artist Tracey Moffatt into Italian.
– Translation of article about Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook into Thai.
– Translation of article about Chinese artist Bu Hua into English.
– Addition of Xiao Lu’s participation into article about the China Avant-garde Exhibition 1989.
– Addition of the following quote into article about French artist Marie Bracquemond: “The severity of Monsieur Ingres frightened me… because he doubted the courage and perseverance of a woman in the field of painting… He would assign to them only the painting of flowers, of fruits, of still lifes, portraits and genre scenes.”

Over the next few months, I will be creating Artist Features about each of these artists on this blog.

Thank you to everyone who participated, and to everyone who will continue researching, writing and learning about women-identified artists!

Western Art History and Non-Western Art

ZainulAbedin1971

Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) by Bangladeshi artist Zainul Abudin, who helped form the Faculty of Fine Arts at Dhaka University.

Reader Question: “I come from Bangladesh and find that Western art history doesn’t do much to help understand the artistic traditions where I’m from – how is this addressed in your study of Art History? Is it addressed at all?”

Western art history – or at least mainstream Western art history – really does very little to address the artistic traditions of non-Western countries. Many people find this perfectly acceptable, arguing that Western art history is about Western countries and shouldn’t have to address anything beyond that. For me, there are three problems with this point of view that should push us towards a more inclusive art historical mainstream.

Read More

“What are the most exciting fields in art history which haven’t been properly explored?”

Three examples of images from the Western art history canon: the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Le Promenade by Claude Monet, and Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso. These paintings, artists, and movements (High Renaissance, Impressionism and Cubism, respectively) have all been extensively studied in art history.

Three examples of images from the Western art history canon: the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Le Promenade by Claude Monet, and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso. These paintings, artists, and movements (High Renaissance, Impressionism and Cubism, respectively) have all been extensively explored in art history.

Reader question: “What do you think are the most exciting fields in art history which haven’t been properly explored?”

Oh – this is a tough but great question!

It’s tough because there are just so many areas of art history that haven’t been properly explored. There are certain “popular” areas of art history that tend to get the most amount of attention in scholarship. These areas usually adhere to the Western art history canon.

Read More

“Are all artists and their works classified as part of a particular art movement?”

1T

Strolling About In Spring by Zhan Ziqian can be classified as “Sui Dynasty Chinese art” – not really a well-known “art movement” according to mainstream art history.

Reader question: “Are all artists and their works classified as part of a particular movement? Like, are all artists Impressionists, Romanticists, etc.?”

The short answer is: no.

The long answer is: no, but the fact that so much of art history is focused on “movements” reflects a great deal about the way that mainstream Western art history operates. The reason for this focus on art movements is that this sort of classification means that it’s easier to talk about an artwork’s style, influence and cultural meaning. It’s useful. But it’s also pretty limiting if it’s the only way that we look at art history.

Read More

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Ellen Oredsson and How To Talk About Art History

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén