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« The Ever Increasing Prosperity of the Public Sector | Main | History Lecture Series Recommendations »

April 15, 2003

The Internet and Social Memory


Thanks for sending me the link to the page on Rebecca Alzofon's website dedicated to Pierre-Paul Prud’hon and his life-drawing technique (which you can visit here.). Ms. Alzofon has carefully analyzed not only the technique of this master draftsman, but has identified modern art papers and chalks that can be used by contemporary artists to derive similar effects. In her quest for authenticity she has even developed a recipe for making black chalk, as commercially available chalks—according to her—do not allow for the same technique as used by Prud’hon.

P. Prudhon, Female Academies

In looking at this, I was struck by Ms. Alzofon’s generosity in posting this stuff on the Web, since she had evidently spent hundreds of hours researching and experimenting to develop her expertise on Prud’hon’s materials and methods.

Make Your Own Black Chalk: It's Easy!

It also reminded me of a comment that Degas apparently repeated throughout his life—that since the collapse of the apprenticeship method of art training, countless studio secrets, formerly handed down from one generation to another, had been lost. When I first read these comments in college, I thought they were just the result of a certain middle-aged crankiness of a fanatical art technician, but as I’ve gotten older it keeps dawning on me how much practical information has to be laboriously rediscovered, generation after generation. Naturally, this type of “craft” information is not confined to the world of art. But Ms. Alzofon’s website suddenly suggested to me that the Internet may eventually serve as a giant, yet accessible social memory for all sorts of information or technique that would otherwise fall through the cracks.

So carry on posting stuff to the Web--especially stuff that you've laboriously figured out for yourself. Somehow the "we-all-live-in-one-big-media-village" trend downgrades small-scale, hardwon, localized, personal knowledge. So by memorializing the particular, the unusual, the specifc you’re performing a vital social function! (Be sure to tell your boss and/or your significant other how important this stuff is.)



posted by Friedrich at April 15, 2003


If you like this kind of drawing, there is a painting technique called "transparent monochrome", that is quite similar.
Jerimy Lipking does some nice examples,

Posted by: jefferson and Church on April 15, 2003 05:48 PM

Too bad Stradivari didn't have the Internet, isn't it?

Posted by: Lynn S on April 16, 2003 05:53 PM

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