HomeThinking in the Box: The Benefits of Artistic Tradition in the Nineteenth Century

HomeThinking in the Box: The Benefits of Artistic Tradition in the Nineteenth Century

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Published on Thursday, April 29, 2021Thursday, April 29, 2021 by João Fernandes

Summary

Tradition is art history's eternal Other: it is that which must be overcome, resisted, thrown off or, if a compromise must be made, creatively appropriated. The history of the art of the nineteenth century, that 'great' age of innovation, progress and revolution, is more than any other rooted in anti-traditionalist sentiment, steeped in a rhetoric that privileges innovation and bound to narrative structures geared against artistic tradition. Modernist and other teleological histories of nineteenth-century art have always emphasised change and novelty.

Announcement

Argument

Tradition is art history's eternal Other: it is that which must be overcome, resisted, thrown off or, if a compromise must be made, creatively appropriated. The history of the art of the nineteenth century, that 'great' age of innovation, progress and revolution, is more than any other rooted in anti-traditionalist sentiment, steeped in a rhetoric that privileges innovation and bound to narrative structures geared against artistic tradition. Modernist and other teleological histories of nineteenth-century art have always emphasised change and novelty. But even revisionist accounts of the art of the nineteenth century leave scarcely any room to consider tradition in its own right. These have generally either sung the aesthetic praises of traditional art without much further reflection, or have discussed academic art as innovative in another way, either within a traditional framework or in the sense that the art under consideration points forward to developments other than those associated with formal modernism.

This rejection of artistic tradition may be due to its use in fascist and totalitarian ideologies, but is also the result of a structuralist approach within the discipline of art history that continuously opposes new and old (with 'old' always being the marked term). Ironically, this structural divide is in part a product of the nineteenth century itself: it stems from the rising historical (and art-historical) consciousness of the time and its clash with a strong belief in change and progress. This all-too-simple opposition between what was and what will be still shapes our understanding of the artistic act. True art, it seems, must be the creation of something out of nothing—a belief stemming from the early-nineteenth-century romantic philosophy of art and, later, a major tenet of modernist criticism. The result has been that art historians are rarely able to think around the categories of tradition and innovation and nearly always address tradition solely as a problem. Seldom is the richness of artistic tradition itself explored.

The question remains whether this rejection of artistic tradition does justice to what art really is, or, better, what it was understood to be in the nineteenth century. For Charles Baudelaire, the answer would have been in the negative. In his Salon of 1859, he observed that 'poetry and progress are like two ambitious men who hate one another with an instinctive hatred'. This conference considers artistic tradition not as the nemesis of creation but in its own right. It aims to examine the potential artistic, commercial and even political benefits of thinking in the box  – of continuing artistic tradition(s), working within them or reverting to them during the (long) nineteenth century. What could tradition yield for artists and the way they understood their art that innovation could not? What could it do for audiences and what they might have sought in artworks? What could it achieve for patrons, with their various social, political and aesthetic agendas?

Program

(all times Amsterdam time)

Day 1 Wednesday 26 May 2021

14:00 Welcome – Chris Stolwijk (RKD-Netherlandish Institute for Art History)

14:15 Introduction – Jan Dirk Baetens (Radboud University Nijmegen)

  • 14:30 Keynote lecture: Elizabeth Prettejohn (University of York): "Thronging it like echoes": Rossetti, Leonardo, and the Western Tradition

15:15 Break

15:30 Session 1: Old Masters, Modern Painters (chairs: Mayken Jonkman and Jan Dirk Baetens)

  • Eveline Deneer (University of Utrecht)): Dutch and Flemish 17th-Century Genre Painting as Models in the Formulation of New “Private” Historical Imagery in Early Nineteenth-Century European Painting
  • Sara Vitacca (Université Paris 1 Panthéon - Sorbonne): The Forgotten Followers of Michelangelo: The Revival of the Artist in Nineteenth Century Anti-Modern Art

16:30 End day 1

Day 2 Thursday 27 May 2021

14:00 Session 2: Art Historical Narratives and the Formation of the Canon (chairs: Rachel Esner and Maite van Dijk)

  • Tamar Mayer (Tel-Aviv University): Rethinking Tradition: Drawing as a Preparatory Tool, from David to Delacroix
  • Jenny Reynaerts (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam): Caught between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Use of Tradition in Budding Dutch Criticism 1800-1850
  • Daniel Ralston (Columbia University): Cardsharp: An American’s Album of Cartes de Visite and the Rise of Spanish Painting

15:15 Break

15:30 Session 3: Spirituality and Morality (chairs: Jenny Reynaerts and Myrthe Krom)

  • Michal Mencfel (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań): On the Verge of a Catastrophe: The Crisis of European Civilisation and the Great Artistic Tradition: Athanasius Raczyński’s (1788-1874) Dream about the Ethical Power of Paintings
  • Laura Fanti (Université Libre de Bruxelles): Belgian Symbolism and the Italian Trecento and Quattrocento: The Use of the Category of Primitives
  • Marieke Maathuis (independent): Ary Scheffer and the Dutch Réveil: The Success of Tradition in Renewing Religious Art

16:30 Break

  • 16:45 Keynote lecture: Cordula Grewe (Indiana University): Modernism’s Peripheries

17:30 End day 2

Day 3 Friday 28 May 2021

14:00 Session 4: (Un)traditional Educations (chairs: Jan Dirk Baetens and Mayken Jonkman)

  • Rasmus Kjærboe (National Gallery of Denmark): Queering Tradition from Within: The Curious Case of Kristian Zahrtmann, Tutor to Two Hundred Modernists
  • Elisabetta Maistri (Durham University): The Pensionados of San Fernando, Inside the Lines of San Luca (1833-1868)

15:00 Break

15:15 Session 5: Why Sculpture is not Boring (chairs: Marjan Sterckx and Rachel Esner)

  • Federica Vermot (Université de Lausanne): For a New Language: Neo-Florentine Sculpture in Late Nineteenth-Century France
  • Rachel Coombes (St. John’s College, University of Oxford ): “Towards a New Classical Order”: Aristide Maillol, Maurice Denis and Greco-Latin Cultural ‘Nostalgia’ in France
  • Dick van Broekhuizen (Museum Beelden aan Zee): Emanuel Fremiet: Terribly Repulsive but Wonderfully Vigorous

16:30 Concluding remarks (Mayken Jonkman, RKD)

16:45 End day 3

Event format and registration

26-27-28 May 2021, online only (zoom)

Online registration is now open. Please register before 20 May 2021.

Regular: € 10Students: free but compulsory registration in advance

Regular tickets are available via the RKD webshop: https://rkd.nl/en/webshop?view=product&id=1cf542ce-d35d-5c79-5a5e-19ceb6b7b881

Student registration: please email to events@rkd.nl and attach a scan of your student card

Date(s)

  • Wednesday, May 26, 2021Wednesday, May 26, 2021
  • Thursday, May 27, 2021Thursday, May 27, 2021
  • Friday, May 28, 2021Friday, May 28, 2021

Keywords

  • Nineteenth-century art, tradition

Contact(s)

  • Krom Myrthe
    courriel : esnaonline [at] hotmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Baetens Jan Dirk
    courriel : j [dot] baetens [at] let [dot] ru [dot] nl

To cite this announcement

« Thinking in the Box: The Benefits of Artistic Tradition in the Nineteenth Century », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Thursday, April 29, 2021Thursday, April 29, 2021, https://calenda.org/869473

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